Drew Pomeranz has a unique curveball to go with his high ceiling. The tall left-hander was drafted fifth overall by the Indians last June—he was the first college pitcher selected—and a big reason is a breaking ball that is both nasty and, in his own words, “hard to explain.” A 6-foot-5 product of the University of Mississippi, Pomeranz inked a contract at the August signing deadline and will begin his professional career this spring.
David Laurila: Are you a stereotypical lefty?
Drew Pomeranz: Not really. You see a lot of lefties that are just kind of crafty and don’t throw as hard. They throw upper 80s, maybe low 90s, and they spot up, fastball, changeup. Stuff like that. I throw harder than a lot of lefties and attack right after people. That kind of makes me different.
DL: Can you give a self scouting report?
DP: The past couple of years, in college, I’ve been fastball/curveball mostly, mixing in a few changeups. Of course, now I’m getting to the point where I’m working on more changeups. Fastball—two-seam and four-seam—in instructs, I was around 92-95 with that. My curveball is 12-6, a little spike curve, and the way I throw it is different. It could be anywhere from 78, 82, or 83, somewhere in there. My changeup is just about the same, low 80s, and it’s a circle change.
DL: Your curveball is your signature pitch. How do you throw it?
DP: It’s hard to explain. I literally just hold it like… a lot of people spike it and still throw it like a normal curveball and break their wrist. I hold it like a spike. I hook my middle finger on a seam, and my thumb on one of the seams, and I push off the top of the seam, holding it kind of like a two-seam, but turned out to the front. My fingers that are on the top are like two legs that are crossing, and I just pretty much flick it straight forward, no wrist-breaking action or anything, I just flick it straight forward and kind of hold it with the middle finger and thumb, and flick with my pointer finger.
DL: How does that impact the movement you get?
DP: It’s a late break that’s mostly 12-6. Your arm naturally pronates anyway, with fastballs and stuff, and the way that I still throw that curveball straight forward, sometimes it will back up and curve down to the left. Sometimes if I get on the side of it, it will break to the right a little bit. It kind of moves around a little.
DL: You get a little screwball action on it, at times?
DP: Yeah. When I throw it arm-side, sometimes it’ll screwball that way a little bit.
DL: Is that an intentional variation on the pitch?
DP: Not really, no. I feel like I can kind of make myself get on the side of it a little bit, but the whole thing of making it back up on me is a little harder. That’s more normally when I’m getting on top of it really well; I throw it arm side. But the way it’s supposed to be is 12-6. I can get it moving down—that’s how I throw it—but I don’t really control it on purpose to break to the side, like a slurve or something.
Depending on how hard I throw it… sometimes if I don’t throw it as hard, it will break more. It’s a really weird pitch with the way I throw it. I throw it harder sometimes, and it will be a tighter break, but it’s a sharp, tighter break. And I can throw it a little slower and get a bigger break out of it. Then, some days, I go out there and throw it and it’s just hard and breaking a lot. It’s kind of like, I get in the bullpen before a game and see what it is doing those days.
DL: When your curve isn’t sharp, what is typically the problem?
DP: A lot of times I’ll bounce it, I guess, and I’m just not getting a good feel for it, mostly. That’s the goal. You get in the bullpen before the game and get a good feel for your pitches. You know your release points. With anyone, some days you don’t feel all of your pitches right. You’re just not feeling your release point on the curveball.
DP: No, I mean I had one bad game, I guess, where I walked a bunch. There were a couple games in a row that I really didn’t get hit, but I was kind of a tick off. I figured out what it was eventually. It was just a timing issue about getting the ball out of my glove.
I don’t really feel like I had mechanical issues, and I never fell apart, because I never got hit, really. Even those games that I was bad, I think I threw five innings one time, no hits. The screwy, crazy game that we had against LSU, I threw like not even three innings, and gave up one hit, but I walked a bunch. It was really a timing issue with me, and I figured out what I was doing wrong. There are a lot of articles out there about that. I was just tapping the ball in my glove, and once I kept it in there it all just snapped for me and I was fine.
DL: Does “multi-part delivery” make sense to you?
DP: No, not really. Never really heard that one. I mean, I’ve heard that I throw differently but that’s how I’ve thrown my whole life and I’ve never had an issue with it. It’s just that everyone throws a little bit different. I guess that’s what that means.
DL: Was there any discussion about your mechanics in instructional league?
DP: No, they didn’t say anything to me. They just kind of let me go through it, not saying anything. They really didn’t want to tell me anything, and they didn’t want me to watch video. They said, “Go out there and pitch; let’s see what you can do.” I didn’t have any mechanical issues; they told me my mechanics looked great.
DL: Can you talk about your two- and four-seam fastballs?
DP: My two-seam tails a little bit; it has a late tail when it‘s tailing good. My ball is fairly straight, though. I throw a two-seam arm side, and a four-seam away from arm-side. Some of the times last year, it was almost like my four-seam would cut out to the mitt, and sometimes my two-seam would tail away to the mitt. That was depending on the day, because it wasn’t really supposed to be cutting but it actually kind of worked out for me.
As far as velocity, I don’t really have any difference between my two-seam and my four-seam.
DL: Do you need your good fastball to pitch well?
DP: It helps, yeah, but it seems like in the past, every time I didn’t have my fastball, my curveball was on. Some days that I didn’t have my curveball, my fastball was on. It kind of picked up the slack in other areas. I guess that’s part of pitching, figuring that out each day.
DL: Is pitching simple or is it complicated?
DP: It’s fairly simple. You go out there and hit your spots, do what you’re supposed to do. Especially now in pro ball, you get a lot of scouting reports. You see people a lot more, so you kind of learn what guys can and can’t hit.
The part of knowing what to do is simple, but I guess that sometimes actually getting it done can be a little complicated. That’s the way it should be put.
DL: What does it feel like when you‘re in the zone?
DP: It feels like you can do anything. You just get locked in out there. You just feel like you can blow anything by anybody. I had a pretty decent amount of games like that in college. It feels awesome. It feels like, “You’re not hitting me today.” You get a good little adrenaline rush, just knowing how good it feels to be in control of the game.
When you’re in the zone like that, you don’t… some days, when you’re not feeling good, you kind of feel your mechanics a little bit. You kind of feel the way your body is moving. But when you’re locked in like that, it’s kind of like you don’t feel your mechanics anymore. You’re just thinking about firing the ball in there and making the hitter look stupid.
DL: Veteran pitchers often talk about the point in their careers where they went from being primarily throwers to having a true understanding of how to pitch. How far away from that do you think you might be?
DP: I feel like every time out there I get a little better at that. Especially this past year, there were some things said about how if my curveball is on, I wasn’t going to get hit. I think that even some scouting reports said that. That’s why I took the whole junior fall to focus on being an effective pitcher, and throwing those two pitches for strikes. It helped me a lot to be locating my pitches, and watching hitters, and seeing what they do.
Every time out, you learn something about yourself and about pitching. I feel like I’m more of a pitcher than a thrower, compared to how I used to be, like in my freshman year. No matter who you are, you’re going to learn something different every time out.
DL: Developmentally, did you miss anything by signing late?
DP: No, I don’t think so. I needed to take a little time off anyway, after a full season of pitching. I don’t really feel like I missed much, since I went straight into instructs and did pretty well there. I think that was a good experience for me.
DL: How much of signing late was about your innings load and how much of it was just the way the system works?
DP: You see people like Chris Sale, who signed pretty quick, but I heard that they told him if he did sign quick, they were going to put him in the big leagues. That’ll get anybody going. But I mean, for the most part, a lot of guys… that’s just how it works. If you’re that high of a pick—if you go that early—it’s just how the process goes. You’re trying to get what you want, and they’re trying to get what they want. That’s how it works a little bit. It takes a little time.
DL: What would be the perfect scenario for your big-league debut?
DP: I mean, I’d like to be in the big leagues this year, but you never know what’s going to happen. I can’t control where I’ll pitch in the system with the Indians. I’m just going to do what I’m doing now, which is getting ready, and show up as ready as I can. Whenever they want to bring me up, they’ll bring me up.
DL: Is pitching fun?
DP: Oh yeah, I love it. When you’re out there, the feeling is awesome. There is no better feeling than that. It’s what I love to do and it’s what every pitcher should love to do: pitch. I get excited to be out there. I’ve never been like, “Oh man, I’ve got to pitch.” I’m always like anxious for it to come, because I want to get out there and get going. I’d be miserable if I was dreading each outing, but I love it. It’s my favorite thing to do.