Drew Pomeranz won a spot in the Rockies rotation out of Spring Training, but he had to make one more start in the Minor Leagues first.
Biding time until the big club needs a fifth starter this weekend, the Rockies' No. 2 prospect allowed four hits over four shutout innings in his season debut as the Double-A Tulsa Drillers defeated the Corpus Christi Hooks, 6-3.
Pomeranz, who was pitching for the Drillers because of weather concerns at other Rockies affiliates, threw 48 of 77 pitches for strikes. He fanned four and walked one.
"I was just trying to go out there and get that first one going," he said. "I couldn't throw strikes, honestly. I kind of struggled and, for some reason, my fastball started cutting a lot. I still only had one walk and hit a guy, but other than that, I was able to pitch out of some jams. I felt pretty good, maybe a little over-pumped up for that first game."
The 23-year-old left-hander worked a perfect first inning before pitching into some trouble in the second. He issued a leadoff walk to top Astros prospect Jonathan Singleton, then yielded back-to-back singles to Brandon Barnes and Jose Martinez to load the bases. He was able to strike out the next two batters, Jair Fernandez and J.C. Thompson, then got pitcher Henry Villar to ground out to escape unscathed.
"I was just trying to make pitches," Pomeranz said. "I've always been real good at that, been able to make pitches like that. Stay calm, relax and focus on making pitches, honestly. And I got out of it."
Pomeranz again ran into some issues in the third and fourth, but was able to strand a pair of runners both times to keep the Hooks off the board.
The Ole Miss product also came through at the plate, going 1-for-2, despite planning to keep the bat on his shoulder.
"I told everyone I wasn't even going to swing tonight," said Pomeranz, who recorded one hit in seven plate appearances last year. "I was just going to stand, but I couldn't help myself. I'll take hits where I can get them."
Selected fifth overall in the 2010 Draft by the Indians, Pomeranz was traded with three others to the Rockies last summer in the deadline deal that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland. After making four starts for the Rockies in September, Pomeranz posted a 0.53 ERA in five spring outings to earn a spot in the rotation.
"I had a curveball and changeup, some off-speed to pitch with this year," Pomeranz said. "Last year, I didn't really have either one of those. I just wanted to throw pitches for strikes and win a rotation spot, and I did."
Although Pomeranz effectively will be replacing Jimenez only a few months after the trade, the left-hander doesn't view it that way. After being with the Indians for less than a year, he said he just feels like any other Rockies prospect.
"I try not to think about that. I don't think any of us in that trade do," Pomeranz said. "I feel more comfortable over here. I wasn't even that settled in with the Indians -- I hadn't even played a full year with them. I think I just feel more comfortable over here for whatever reason. I've almost forgotten I was even with the Indians, I was with them for such a short time.
"I don't feel any pressure toward me. You can't expect to go out and compete in a baseball game if you think about things that don't really matter."
While the transaction was made last July, Pomeranz had to wait more than two weeks to be officially included in the deal. Draft picks cannot be traded within a year of signing, keeping him off the mound during that period. He also missed time at the end of the year following an emergency appendectomy. Given all that, Pomeranz said his aim this season is simply to take the ball when it's his turn.
"I think my main goal is to go out there and pitch every five days," he said. "With all the weird things I had happen last year, I didn't really make my starts. I didn't pitch consistently every five days for the whole season. That's my goal, pitching every five days and putting my team in a good spot to win every game. That's all I care about."