I was supposed to have off on July 4th. And even though I had a day off with the family, we went out to State Mutual anyway and took in the Rome Braves game. And even though it was a family outing, Jay Groome pitched a heck of a ball game.
And I just had to write about it.
Sports never have a day off I guess.
The pitcher formerly known as Jason, Groome got back on the hill for his first South Atlantic League start in nearly three months. Groome only lasted 1.1 innings in his 2017 debut, allowing nine runs on seven hits and three walks. A lat injury put him on the shelf until his rehab began in the New York-Penn League on June 19th.
It appears Groome has shaken off the cobwebs.
Groome of course was the Boston Red Sox first round pick last year. Many thought he had 1-1 talent, but most of us remember the story. He transferred back home to New Jersey, had a minor suspension, and maturity issues arose. That said, John Sickels ranked him the third best Red Sox prospect, and their top pitching prospect, heading into 2017.
…first round pick in 2016 from high school in New Jersey; possible first-overall pick but fell to 12th overall due to bonus demands and late negative rumors about his makeup; fanned 10 and walked four in 6.2 innings at lowest levels; big 6-6 southpaw with fastball up to 94-95 along with a plus curveball; change-up needs work but he has the upside of a number two starter and was also young for the draft class; certainly young enough to overcome any lingering immaturity concerns. ETA 2021.
The first thing you notice about Groome is that he is enormous. Just 18 years of age, Groome is listed at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, which means he can still fill out some. The lefty gets his whole body into his delivery, and it is smooth as silk. He seems to repeat it pretty easily, which is incredible for a teenager.
Groome was fearless and highly effective in his first two innings back. He was dealing. The fastball was easily maintaining the mid-90s heat he is known for and that curveball is a thing to watch. It’s almost in slow motion sometimes, as it was when Randy Ventura had to wait and wait for it to break, only to slap it foul.
Groome struck out his first two batters, the second of which was big leaguer Sean Rodriguez who was in Rome on rehab working his way back from injury.
Cristian Pache ended the first inning, fooled on another pitch, nubbing the ball right back to Groome. Groome was efficient to his first seven batters, striking out five of them. As you can tell from the videos, I was with my family on the first base side, but that curve must have been tricky. Justin Ellison went down on three straight pitches to end the second, chasing one in the dirt to end the inning.
Carlos Martinez had the first “hard” hit ball off Groome of the night, sending a pop fly foul down the first base line halfway between first and right field. The young southpaw’s first blemish of the night came on a five-pitch walk to Braves 2017 MLB Draft pick Jordan Rodgers. He seemed to be missing high when he missed, but it wasn’t by much. It’s very likely that was his intent, but he could have still been a bit rusty from the layoff as well. He got Marcus Mooney to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, and his lone base runner was eliminated.
Ventura broke up the no-hitter in the fourth with a bunt single that Groome made a close play, despite Ventura’s top-notch speed. Another ground ball out from Rodriguez brought Pache to the plate again. Pache, like Ventura in the first, seemed to have to wait for the curve to break, slapping it foul, before Groome blew one of his 90s fastballs by him for strike three.
The fifth was another clean slate for Groome. Two quick ground outs and he again got Ellison swinging on three straight pitches. He did get a bit out of the zone in the later frames, but still worked quickly and with low effort. He threw just 60 pitches in five frames, but 38 were strikes, the majority coming in the first three frames. Still, Groome made you forget this was an 18-year-old coming off his first big professional injury.
Five innings pitched. Seven strikeouts. One walk, one hit, no runs. Now, the Rome Braves are not a team known for its power, but the lone fly ball he allowed went foul. Groome induced five ground outs, and didn’t make his outfield work for a fly ball at all.
Groome overpowered a nice Rome lineup on Tuesday. While the Red Sox will surely be patient in the development of their young lefty — and there will be not-so-pretty days ahead — Groome is looking like he may be just as good as we thought.