Drellich: Pomeranz among reasons Red Sox pitching depth is so good

Drellich: Pomeranz among reasons Red Sox pitching depth is so good

BOSTON -- Drew Pomeranz’s first start in a Boston uniform of at least six innings and three hits or fewer came Wednesday night, 364 days after his first start with the Red Sox following a trade with the Padres last July.

The lefty’s consistency this season has been one of the most pleasant surprises, and ultimately a stabilizing force in the Boston rotation. The Red Sox are 9-2 in his last 11 starts and he’s gone at least six innings in six of his last seven now. His ERA in that span is 2.13.

"I had a good year last year, but I feel really good this year with all my pitches," Pomeranz said. "I feel really good with all my pitches on both sides of the plate, which is something I've never really had before. I've made some adjustments mechanically, where I am on the rubber and things. Just really tried to focus on pitching arm-side with everything, which I was always good on glove side. I think that has helped me put this string together."

The rotation is deep. Deep enough that the Sox are slotting in seven pitchers in a seven-game stretch. Somehow, there were eight starting pitchers on the Red Sox roster Tuesday. One of them, Brian Johnson, started in a 5-4 win over the Blue Jays that took 15 innings, and another, Hector Velazquez, finished it out in extras.

Both Johnson and Velazquez went to the minors on Wednesday when the Sox added Ben Taylor and Kyle Martin to the bullpen, the latter getting to the big leagues for the first time. 

But the contributions of Johnson and Velazquez on Tuesday, followed up by Pomeranz’s work on Wednesday, are indicative of an increasing strength for the 2017 Sox: not just the very top of the rotation, but its depth.

That depth, you’ll recall, was never assured. Far, far from it. 

David Price was injured at year’s start. Pomeranz’s health was in question to begin the year. 

Steven Wright was lost for the season. Velazquez’s first big league start looked bad. Kyle Kendrick’s time in the majors did not go well. Eduardo Rodriguez was lost for a month and a half because of a knee injury.

Yet the Red Sox entered Wednesday with the third-best rotation ERA in the American League, 4.09. Chris Sale and Price are as frightening a potential playoff one-two punch as you can find. 

There's a lot more going on.

“There’s always the adage you never have enough pitching and certainly when you start Brian Johnson, what’s he had, four major league starts in his career?” Pitching coach Carl Willis said before Johnson’s start Tuesday. “So, while there’s still a certain amount of inexperience there, we’ve seen the ability play out. We’ve seen him go out and throw a nine inning shutout here in Fenway Park. Hector Velazquez has stepped in a couple of situations and pitched very well his second time back with the club and Doug Fister is a guy who has had some very very good years. 

“And while he’s maybe not exactly the same guy he was six, seven years ago, he’s still a guy with four pitches and he understands how to pitch, how to change speeds. So you know, when you look at the front end with Sale, with Price throwing as he is, with Pomeranz throwing as he is now, getting Eddy back, it’s a very very talented group of guys that we feel very confident in.”

Price, somehow, is throwing harder this year than last.

“You know, I can’t tell you 100 percent the reason why,” Willis said. “I think some of it is his possibly attributed to when you have an injury, the rehab process and how the throwing is monitored and the strengthening factor of that rehab process is, I think, so much more intensified or detailed because you’re dealing with certain specific areas. 

“I really think, you know, it’s a byproduct of those things, and it’s been a pleasure to watch. Obviously, he was dominating on Sunday night in a game that we really needed a performance like that. It gives you. A lot of optimism going forward to see him throw the baseball like that.”

Porcello seems to have righted the ship, with a 3.31 ERA in his last five starts.

“I do [think he’s turned a corner],” Willis said. “I felt for a while that he was close, that he was making small steps getting there. We’re seeing much better command now at the bottom of the strike zone, and that allows him to at times then elevate. But it starts with the bottom of the zone, and I think he’s in a place right now, we’re starting to see that consistency of that.

"And when he does that, hey, he’s still a contact-oriented pitcher and there are going to be ground balls and there are going to be some hits. But that’s who he is, and he can be successful that way, as we’ve seen. And I think he’s at that point right now."

Throw in the healthy return of Rodriguez and the continued success of Pomeranz and extras like Fister, Johnson and Velazquez, the Red Sox have choices. Options.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski arguably took a risk when he dealt away, of all people, Clay Buchholz. Buchholz, of course, wound up needing surgery once he got to the Phillies.

But the Sox pitching situation felt far from comfortable to begin the year, for one reason or another. It's comfy now — about as comfy as can be, anyway. And Dombrowski and the Red Sox, from the medical staff to the coaching staff to the pitchers themselves, deserve credit for getting to this point.

Pomeranz, Pedroia lead Red Sox past Blue Jays, 5-1

Pomeranz, Pedroia lead Red Sox past Blue Jays, 5-1

BOSTON -- When Drew Pomeranz has been on the mound this season, it's usually meant good things for the Boston Red Sox.

Pomeranz pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning, Dustin Pedroia drove in three and the Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1 on Wednesday night.

Pomeranz (10-4) allowed an unearned run over 6 2/3 innings to win his fourth straight decision and continues to be among Boston's most dependable arms. He hasn't lost since June 11, and the Red Sox are 9-3 in his past 12 starts. His ERA over the stretch is 2.62, dropping it from 5.29 to 3.51 for the season.

"I feel really good with all my pitches on both sides of the plate, which is something I really haven't had before," Pomeranz said.

Pedroia and Deven Marrero each had two-run singles with two outs in the second inning to provide all the offense the Red Sox needed. Pedroia has six RBIs in the series, which concludes Thursday.

Pomeranz said being healthy has been a factor in his run of quality starts. He acknowledged he felt good, but not great in spring training as he struggled with his mechanics. Since then, he's found a rhythm.

Aaron Sanchez (1-3) gave up five runs, six hits and five walks in four innings. It ended his four-game winning streak against Boston. Pitching in just his third game off the disabled list for a blister issue on his middle finger, the same problem contributed to his early exit Wednesday.

"It's one of those things," Sanchez said. "You take a step forward, you think you're past it and you're right back to step one."

A baserunning error early in the second almost derailed Boston's big inning. Chris Young led off with a double, and Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with a single. After Bradley stole second, Christian Vazquez hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Justin Smoak. He stepped on the bag for the out, and then caught Young hung up between third and home.

Young was tagged out after a brief rundown for the double play, but Brock Holt walked to keep the inning alive.

STREAK ENDS

While Pedroia was hot at the plate, his streak of 114 games without a fielding error ended when he tried to backhand a groundball by Darwin Barney in the fifth inning. The streak was a club record for a second baseman. His last error was Aug. 9, 2016 at Detroit.

SLUMP NO MORE

Before his single to lead off the third inning, Miguel Montero had been 0 for 15 with Toronto since coming over in a July 3 trade from Chicago.

BEATING THE HEAT

Red Sox manager John Farrell said he plans to combat a recent run of hot days and long games the same way he handled a similar stretch a year ago.

It starts with limiting the pregame workload and sun exposure, which included bypassing outdoor batting practice Wednesday. The Red Sox may even restrict player access to the clubhouse during the hottest part of the day.

"We went through that last year. I thought it paid dividends, the 2-4 weeks following that stint," Farrell said. "And that's about to take place again."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Michael Bolsinger was placed on the 10-day disabled list prior to the game with left knee inflammation. Bolsinger allowed one hit - a walk-off homer in the 15th inning - in 3 1/3 innings in Toronto's 5-4 loss Tuesday. RHP Cesar Valdez was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo. ... RHP Joe Smith (right shoulder) was expected to be activated from the disabled list Wednesday, but will instead need one more rehab start in the minors. The plan is for him to meet the team for its series in Cleveland, which begins on Friday.

Red Sox: SS Xander Bogaerts (right hand) took pregame ground balls and Farrell is hopeful he can be back in the lineup Thursday. He was a late scratch Tuesday and had an MRI on the hand, which has bothered him since he was hit by a pitch July 6.

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: LHP Francisco Liriano (5-5, 6.04 ERA) will make his 16th start of the season. He lasted just two innings in his last outing on July 15 at Detroit, giving up five runs.

Red Sox: RHP Doug Fister (0-3, 6.75) appeared in relief last week in Boston's 4-1, 16-inning loss to the Yankees. He took the loss after allowing three runs over 2 2/3 innings.