Focused on the Future

Drew Pomeranz was chosen in the first round of baseball's draft as the fifth overall player by the Cleveland Indians last June. Since then most of his attention has been focused on getting ready for spring training, which begins next month.

There was the matter of actually signing, which the 6-foot-5 left-hander finally did in mid-August, sparking some speculation, or perhaps hope, among Ole Miss fans that Pomeranz would return.

"I signed probably at the last minute of the last day," he said.

Pomeranz said it was because of the process and that both sides countered back and forth.

"I knew it was eventually going to happen in the end, but it was just a matter of everybody being on the same page," he said.

Pomeranz, whose signing bonus was $2.65 million, was headed for his ultimate dream of pitching in professional baseball. His actual starting salary is what all players who will be at his level receive in minor league baseball, and it will increase at every level in which he moves up.

These days he spends most of his time in Oxford, somewhat the celebrity, if nothing else because of his playing days with the Rebels and also being the highest drafted player in Ole Miss baseball history.

He's been working out and running five days a week, and he's throwing three days a week. He's hung out with friends, a lot of whom are still on the Ole Miss team or in school, and he's taken in some Rebel basketball games. He goes up to metro Memphis, to Collierville, Tenn., often on Sundays and spends a day or two there at home.

While all that is much the same as it's always been while he was in college, there is one change already.

"I'm still the same person. I've just got a little more money now," Pomeranz said, laughing a bit but obviously being truthful.

He has been invited to big-league camp and reports to Goodyear, Ariz., and the Indians facility when the pitchers and catchers gather on Feb. 15. Later he will be switched to a minor league camp, and then on to a club. Before he leaves Oxford he will participate in the Ole Miss Baseball Alumni Game on Feb. 5.

Drafted in June, signed in August, now preparing for the 2011 season. Pomeranz knows things are different, but he feels the same as he did, say, this time last year.

"Walking around in Oxford, people will know who I am a lot of the time," he said. "But being such a small community, everybody knows everybody anyway. Things are pretty much the same for me."

Drew Pomeranz

That might not be the case for long. Players aren't drafted fifth overall and things then remain the same. His goal is to make the big league club, but he's patient and methodical in his approach to getting there.

"I really have no idea," Pomeranz said of where the Indians might send him to start off his career. "I just want to show up as ready as I can be and let them send me wherever they want to send me. I just want to do good and try to work my way up."

His path since August has been fairly low key.

"A week or so after I signed, I went to a short-season team in Ohio," he said. "I was there for about 10 days and that was to get me back into throwing. I didn't throw all summer. I took some time off. Up there, they wanted to observe me getting back into throwing. I came back to Oxford for a few days and went to the fall instructional league like September 15 in Goodyear. I was there until October 15. Then I took some time off throwing and was working out every day. I started throwing again in the middle of December, and I'm kinda starting to pick that up now."

Several professional athletes train and live in Oxford. Pomeranz, like the others, has found that to be accommodating.

"I can get anything done I need to here," he said. "I can use the weight room here. If I need to throw inside, I can go inside and throw.

"If I need a catcher, I can grab a catcher here," he quipped, but again being serious and truthful.

Pomeranz said he actually hasn't done a lot of research of the Indians pitching staff to see who all is there and where he might fit in.

"It doesn't really matter what I think or look at or see. It's what they want to do with me anyway. So I don't worry about that too much," he said.

But he is aware of the path the first round pick of the Indians the previous year has taken.

"He started out in High A and finished up (2010) in Double A," he said of pitcher Alex White, the 15th pick in the first round by the Indians in 2009 out of the University of North Carolina. "He'll probably start out in Double A and finish up in Triple A this year. I would assume that would be my path. But I've got to show up and do my work."

Pomeranz wouldn't say which Ole Miss pitcher he thought might take his spot this spring as the Friday night starter.

"I don't really know that much about that," he said. "I think they'll have a good year this year. They've got some good guys. I know they're working their butts off in the weight room. They'll be well prepared for the season."

Pomeranz admits there will be some adjustments from college to the pros. But he's worked basically his whole life to get to this point. And he's ready for it, even though he says it may not have sunk in completely even yet.

"It's still kinda not all set in, I guess you could say. But I still feel like the same person, pretty much. Being here (in Oxford), I don't have as much to do, and I don't feel like a student anymore.

"I guess it still hasn't hit me fully."

Come Feb. 15, that's all likely to change in a big way for Drew Pomeranz.

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