Feb. 19, 2010

click here for CBI SEC preview

click here for coaches' SEC preseason poll


Pomeranz a Rebel with a Cause

By Jimmy Jones


(photos by Jimmy Jones)


After posting an 8-4 record with 124 strikeouts in 95.1 innings to lead the Ole Miss Rebels to the NCAA Super Regional against Virginia, Drew Pomeranz doubtless could sit back after the season and derive the satisfaction of an artist for a work finely crafted.
It is just not in the junior left-hander's nature to revel in an accomplishment made singular by circumstance when his team fell just short of making the trip to the College World Series in Omaha for the first time since 1972.
Pomeranz has plenty of personal accolades. He was a Freshman All-American and selected as a Freshman All-SEC performer and followed that by being named All-SEC Second Team and selected for the USA Baseball Team as a sophomore. To top it off, he is considered by major league scouts as one of the top prospects in the country and projected as a first round pick. He was drafted in the 12th round by the Texas Rangers out of high school in 2007.
"The honors are nice, but they are not going to affect how I go about my business," Pomeranz said. "We fell a little short the past few years, so we are working hard to get this team to Omaha.


"Our program has come a long way but no one will be satisfied until we can accomplish that goal."
Added former Rebels catcher Brett Basham: "All the accolades haven't really affected him. He has always been a low-key guy, and I don't see that changing. He has his picture plastered all over Oxford billboards and advertisements, but you would never know it by him. He is just one of those guys that don't let stuff like that get to him."
Basham, drafted by the Padres after the 2009 season, is the first to tell you that he caught a pitcher that is earmarked for great things in his future.
"The first thing that really pops out is his presence on the mound," Basham said. "Nothing ever seems to bother him. His stuff is unbelievably good. His fastball is in the mid 90s, he throws his curve ball from 70-80 mph and spots it really well and he has a changeup coming along that will just make him tougher.
"He is 6-5 and he has that Andy Pettitte thing going where he hides his face with his glove and hat and unfurls that 6-5 frame at you. That can be imposing to hitters."
The combination of composure, great stuff and physical presence was what attracted Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco to the youngster out of high school.
"In high school his physical talents stood out immediately," Bianco said. "He is a 6-5 left-hander and was throwing in the upper 80s and touching 90 mph, so that was the first thing that attracted us.
"Once he got here, we learned that he is much more than that. He impressed us with his outstanding work ethic from the start. There is a guy that corrected some minor mechanical issues and gained nine pounds while at the same time losing six percent body fat. Not many people can do that."
The Rebels’ roster was hit hard, especially the pitching corps, after last season with 11 players moving on to the major league farm system or graduating. Among them were junior draftees Phillip Irwin and Nathan Baker. Veteran hurlers Brett Bukvich and Scott Bittle graduated as well.
They also lost one of the best closers in the nation in Jake Morgan to injury, so pitching will be a key focal point in Oxford.
Bianco's squad played in their seventh consecutive Regional and fourth straight Super Regional last season before falling to Virginia in their home stadium. If they are to get back this year they will have to depend on Pomeranz, a Collierville, Tenn., native to lead the way.
"Drew has always been a big-time pitcher, and the bigger the stage the brighter he shines," said Bianco, who is entering his ninth year.
"Anytime that you can return a quality pitcher like Drew, it takes a lot of pressure off of the rest of the staff. He sets the example for his teammates not only off the field but he gives the whole team a boost knowing that we are going to run a guy like him out there every Friday night.”

Pomeranz got stronger as the season progressed last year, turning in his first complete game in a win over No. 20 Florida on the road. In the championship game of the Oxford Regional, he tied a school record with 16 strikeouts in a complete-game outing against Western Kentucky – on two days’ rest after throwing seven innings. He struck out 17 hitters in his USA Baseball debut over the summer.
It was an impressive show of physical and mental toughness for a kid just two years removed from high school.
There's an old saying about "working smart, not hard." In baseball, as in life, the advantage is in achieving a balance of both.
Drew Pomeranz could teach us all a little bit about that.