BOSTON — It was almost like they knew it was coming.
Drew Pomeranz threw a curveball — his bread-and-butter pitch — 20 times to the Rays over the weekend. He didn't get a single swing and miss in a 4-3 loss. Tampa Bay laid off the 11 curveballs out of the zone, and put six of the strikes in play.
After the game the Red Sox wondered whether Pomeranz was tipping the pitch. He's still not entirely sure.
"You always question things, especially early on in the season," Pomeranz said. "Just making sure you're doing the right things. At this level people can pick up on anything you do, so we're always double-checking ourselves to make sure everything is good. But I think everything is fine.
"It's not like I was ripping off nasty curveballs and they were hitting them," Pomeranz continued. "It didn't feel great out of my hand so that's a part of it."
Sox manager Alex Cora is revered throughout baseball for his ability to pick up on tipping pitchers. He and Pomeranz have already discussed the potential problem.
"We've got a lot of smart baseball people around here, especially this new staff," Pomeranz said. "We've talked about a few things, just being conscious of those things, someone could be seeing those things. Just making me more aware of what's going on."
When Cora was asked whether they picked anything up after reviewing video, the manager just smirked.
"We'll see next outing," he said.
While that potential issue may be mended, Pomeranz's velocity has also been an early concern. The lefty averaged 88 mph on his four-seam fastball in each of his first two outings. During his 17-win season a year ago, it sat at 92 or 93.
"I think that's mechanical and throwing stuff too," Pomeranz explained. "I think it's just keeping throwing. I was throwing harder as the game went along the other day. I think I'm just ironing out a few things. Like I said, it's not like I'm out there feeling like 'Man, I'm throwing everything. Everything is coming out of my hand great and the curveball feels so good.' Still waiting for that extra little gear to come along."
So how does that extra gear come along? If he doesn't have a feel for the curve yet, is repetition simply the key?
"It's just one of those things that comes with throwing more," Pomeranz said. "Sometimes early in the season, I think last year I had a little bit of this, too. Just getting my rhythm going, [I] kind of fight it a little bit. Then once you find it you just roll with it. It's why we put in the work every day here, trying to find that rhythm and trying to make everything click."
It took a little while for things to click last season. Pomeranz opened the season 3-3 with a 4.97 ERA is his first eight starts.
From there he was one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Pomeranz finished on 14-3 run with a 2.85 ERA.
"It's just a part of baseball. You can't always go out there (and win)," Pomeranz said. "Only the best guys — (Chris) Sale is a guy that goes out there and doesn't have that extra gear and he's still dominant. I mean, he gives up two runs instead of zero. For some of us you go five and give up a couple home runs or whatever, but it's just part of pitching. You've gotta figure out how to win with what you've got that day."
Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason.
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