Pomeranz hoping 'experimental' shot keeps elbow pain away

Even if Drew Pomeranz proves he's fully healthy in spring training, he'll have to earn one of the two open slots in the Red Sox's rotation. Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Even with a healthy left elbow, it's conceivable that Drew Pomeranz will be elbowed out of the Boston Red Sox's starting rotation in 2017. But whether Pomeranz's elbow is healthy remains to be seen.

During a break in the Red Sox's winter festival Saturday at Foxwoods Resort Casino, Pomeranz revealed that he received a stem-cell injection in his elbow after last season to relieve "minor discomfort" that he experienced toward the end of many of his starts. The treatment involved having bone marrow taken from his hip and injected into his elbow.

Pomeranz said team doctors neither recommended nor even discussed surgery. The issue was bothersome enough, though, that he elected a treatment that he described as "experimental," compared with the plasma-rich platelet injections that pitchers typically receive for similar symptoms.

"It just promotes healing," Pomeranz said of the stem-cell approach. "You can rest, and it probably would've been all right. It just multiplies your chance of being healed."

The Red Sox traded top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza to the San Diego Padres to acquire Pomeranz during the All-Star break. After the deal, Pomeranz was at the center of a Major League Baseball investigation into the Padres' handling of medical records.

Pomeranz posted a 2.47 ERA in 17 starts for the Padres and made the National League All-Star team, but his ERA was 4.59 in 14 games with the Red Sox. In particular, the 28-year-old struggled late in the season. He gave up 10 runs in 10⅔ innings over his last three starts and allowed a two-run homer to Coco Crisp in Game 3 of the AL Division Series against the Cleveland Indians.

Fellow lefty Eduardo Rodriguez and knuckleballer Steven Wright are expected to compete with Pomeranz in spring training for the final two spots in the rotation. As with Pomeranz, there are questions about Rodriguez's health after he slipped on a wet mound while pitching a winter-ball game in Venezuela and tweaked his right knee, although he has been cleared by the Red Sox's medical staff, according to president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

Since Pomeranz has experience as a reliever, he could also be an asset as a multi-inning option out of the bullpen.

"In my head, I always feel like I'm competing for something," Pomeranz said. "The moment you start to feel comfortable, you lose a little bit of an edge."

The Red Sox hope to avoid an arbitration hearing regarding Pomeranz to determine his 2017 salary, Dombrowski said. Pomeranz filed a $5.7 million request and the Red Sox countered at $3.6 million. The sides would prefer to find middle ground rather than have a judge choose one figure or the other.