AKRON — You’ve heard the name, you’ve read the reviews … now you can see him for yourself.
Drew Pomeranz — the 2010 first-round and fifth-overall draft pick of the Cleveland Indians — made his Canal Park debut for the Akron Aeros on Wednesday in a 4-0 loss to Altoona.
On a day when the temperatures reached 90 degrees, Pomeranz added some heat of his own. He struck out six Altoona hitters in five innings.
There are no visible radar readings at Canal Park, but Pomeranz said after the game he was told his fastballs were in the 91-93 mph range. And despite having a curveball that has been rated by Baseball America as the best in the Indians farm system, on this day the left-hander let his fastball do most of the work.
“There was no reason to throw many curveballs today,” the 22-year-old said. “They were struggling to hit the fastball. I was able to keep the ball moving around today.”
In his second start at the Double-A level, Pomeranz faced 19 hitters and gave up just three hits and a pair of walks. In addition to the six strikeouts, he had six fly outs and two groundouts. Four of his six strikeouts came against left-handed hitters.
The only run he allowed, on a third-inning sacrifice fly by Curve centerfielder Starling Marte, was enough to tag him with his first Double-A loss.
Pomeranz said the midday heat did not affect him on the mound.
“I just spent three months pitching in Kinston, N.C. … now there’s a place that’s hot,” he said. “I probably pitched five or six day games there, so this didn’t feel (bad) to me at all.”
Over his first two starts with Akron, Eastern League hitters are batting .178 (6-for-34) against Pomeranz.
“The adjustment from Single-A to Double-A has not been bad,” he said. “In Double-A, the batters like to swing at more pitches. I like that.”
Pomeranz began his first season in professional baseball at Class A Kinston. There he went 3-2 with a 1.87 ERA while striking out 95 hitters in 77 innings. He also earned a spot on the Carolina League All-Star team and represented the Cleveland Indians in the All-Star Futures game held July 10 in Phoenix.
Pomeranz has been kept on a strict pitch count of around 85 pitches per start this season. On Wednesday, he threw 84 pitches before turning the game over to the Aeros bullpen in the sixth inning.
“I think the pitch count has been good for me,” Pomeranz said. “It keeps me focused on conserving pitches and throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters.”
The most innings Pomeranz threw in college was 100 2/3, in 2010 while leading the University of Mississippi to the NCAA regional tournament. That same season, he was named Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year after going 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA.
After Wednesday’s start, Pomeranz has pitched 86 2/3 innings in 2011.
“I kind of expected that I might be starting to get tired, but honestly this is the best I’ve felt all year,” he said.
Pomeranz, who grew up in Collierville, Tenn. — just outside Memphis — said he doesn’t think he ever pitched in Ohio prior to Wednesday.
“After I signed with the Indians last year I spent about 10 to 20 days at Mahoning Valley, but all I did was chart pitches every day, I didn’t do any pitching,” he said.
With a career path that projects a brief stay in Akron, followed by a short trip to Columbus before finally landing at Progressive Field, Pomeranz should expect to do a lot of pitching in the Buckeye State.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.