Bradford: How Drew Pomeranz is preparing for uncertain world of free agency, 2018 season
Free agency is a nerve-wracking proposition. Ask any player who has entered into a season which promises to be punctuated by the chance to hit the open market.
The weight of knowing the results of that one year is going to set the stage for their life’s biggest payday is often times more consuming than any big leaguer can prepare for. That’s just how it is. Some handle it, others don’t. But it is a reality that at least a few members of the Red Sox’ clubhouse face every season.
Then there is this time around.
A guy like Drew Pomeranz is not only staring down the usual pressures that come with a contract year but is also saddled with a couple of other potential 10-foot-high speed bumps.
For one, the Red Sox pitcher is slated to enter into a free agent class the likes of which baseball has never seen. Starting pitchers? Dallas Keuchel. Patrick Corbin. J.A. Happ. Garrett Richards. Matt Harvey. Charlie Morton. They will all be eligible for free agency. Then there are the other candidates at the other positions who will be siphoning a ton of money from teams’ budgets. Josh Donaldson. Manny Machado. Bryce Harper. Craig Kimbrel. Andrew Miller. The list of players in line for big money is a long one.
And now you have the mysteries that have been born from this round of free agency. Teams aren’t spending money. Players aren’t signing. Suddenly, life as a free agent is really uncomfortable.
“Obviously, I think about that,” Pomeranz said via phone. “How is that going to play out for me? But I’m just more focused on the present moment and we’ll see. If I pitch good enough hopefully I won’t have these problems and hopefully they get ironed out before next year.”
No matter what the landscape, the fact remains the same that this is shaping up as Pomeranz’s big chance. He will be 30 years old in November and has a 17-win season pitching in the American League East (which included 32 starts and a 3.32 ERA) under his belt.
“You try and take it the same,” he said of his impending contract year. “Obviously, I know I’m a free agent at the end of the year and I want to have a good year. But I’m not worried about that. I’m just worried about picking up where I left off and kind of continuing to get better every year like I have every year of my career.
“I’ve just been traded so many times, and have had so many different issues in my career, I’ve just learned to fight the things I have zero control of and simplify things to my core and worry about my business. Taking care of my business makes the team better, makes me better, makes us go further and makes everything play out as it should.”
The good news for Pomeranz is he is putting himself in as an enviable a spot as virtually any of those starting pitchers on that free agent list.
The lefty has figured a lot out. Doubts about whether or not he could duplicate that first half of 2016 in San Diego in such a daunting environment as Boston are rapidly subsiding. This is a guy who went 9-4 with a 3.73 ERA in the American League East, with a 10-3 mark and 3.44 ERA at Fenway Park. Now comes the challenge of proving he can pitch into the seventh inning, a feat he only managed 10 times.
For Pomeranz, it’s all part of an evolution he is confident won’t lose its momentum.
“At the end of last year, I felt like I had everything,” he said. “I was throwing changeups. I was throwing two-seamers. I was throwing four-seamers, cutters and everything was good. So I just want to pick up from there and use those things to get deeper into games. I think that’s the biggest improvement area I want to work on is staying in the game longer and getting quicker outs.”
So what has he done to make the progress possible?
After 2017 offseason that was highlighted by stem cell injections, Pomeranz has taken a far more entertaining route this time around. The pitcher hooked up with celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson (he of Kim Kardashian, Sylvester Stallone, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez — to name a few — fame), started eating a whole lot better and is ready to hit the ground running in Fort Myers later this week.
“I definitely trained harder this year,” Pomeranz explained, adding, “Honestly, I had some doubts last year. Knowing what I needed to work on, which is figuring out how to pitch in the East and Fenway, mostly. It really kind of fit with what I was trying to work on as a pitcher, anyway. So I knew what I had to do is throw every pitch wherever I want and command both sides of the plate, which comes into play huge in Fenway because of the wall. I think setting those goals for myself … I didn’t set the goals to pitch better at Fenway, but it was more just to command both sides of the plate and use my pitches. I knew as a byproduct of that it would help me pitch better in the East and at Fenway. I think I did a pretty good of that.”
And, every once in a while, he might take a quick glance over to how all that free agent business is shaking out.
As Pomeranz notes, “It will be interesting to watch how all of this unfolds.”