Results tagged ‘ Rick Porcello ’

Tigers-Royals postponed, Sanchez pushed to Friday

As expected, the cold, rainy forecast across Michigan this afternoon led to an early postponement of today’s Tigers-Royals finale at Comerica Park. The game will be made up with a 1:08 contest on Thursday, June 19, tacked onto the end of the Royals’ next trip into town. It was an off day for both teams, and neither would be playing 21 days in a row.

As for the Tigers rotation, Anibal Sanchez — who hasn’t faced Major League hitters in a game setting since March 12 — has been bumped to Friday’s series opener against the Orioles. Rick Porcello moves back to Saturday, while Justin Verlander stays on turn Sunday. That means Drew Smyly’s spot will be skipped, which makes sense given Brad Ausmus’ previous statements on watching Smyly’s innings. With three off-days in an eight-day span starting next week, the Tigers could go without a fifth starter until April 19 and pitch Smyly in relief until then if they wanted.

Tigers-Nationals exhibition rained out

I didn’t go to Washington, but apparently the weather wasn’t very good, because they didn’t wait long to postpone Saturday’s exhibition between the Tigers and Nationals. Essentially, the Tigers got an overnight stay in D.C. before returning home Saturday evening.

Only a couple players will really be affected by it. The first is scheduled starter Anibal Sanchez, who was scheduled to throw around 85 pitches to get ready for his regular-season assignment Thursday against KC. Instead, Sanchez will now throw a shorter session against Tigers hitters along with Rick Porcello as part of Sunday’s voluntary workouts (no, it’s not voluntary for the hitters scheduled to face them, I’m told).

The other player affected is Don Kelly, who was supposed to get some field work in Saturday’s game. He returned to game action Friday in Lakeland, but it was a minor-league camp game, and he was the designated hitter for both teams in the contest. I’m not sure whether that will help set Brad Ausmus’ decision on who starts in left field for Opening Day. He said Friday he still hadn’t decided.

Rick Porcello and the strikeout rate

Rick Porcello didn’t crack five strikeouts per nine innings for a season until his third year in the Major Leagues. That was two years ago. He bumped his strikeout rate a little bit from there to 5.5 last year. After Monday’s six-inning, 10-strikeout performance, he’s up to 6.96 this season. With matchups against the White Sox and Marlins due up to finish out his season, he has a legitimate chance to end the year averaging seven.

This is no longer the sinkerballing Porcello we’ve come to expect. This is more like the pure pitching Porcello some saw out of the draft in 2007. The sinker is still his dominant pitch, but it’s no longer the only thing he can throw for outs.

“You’ve got to be able to strike guys out, especially in the American League,” Porcello said after Monday’s 4-2 win. “With the type of hitters they have in big, strong guys, we have to be able to get swings and misses when you need them. I’ve been to do that a little bit better this year than I have in year’s past. It is a weapon.”

Mariners manager Eric Wedge would probably agree. His last year in Cleveland was Porcello’s first in Detroit, so he had a chance to watch him a lot as a rookie.

“He wasn’t really making mistakes,” Wedge said. “He’s more of a complete pitcher now than he was three or four years ago when he was younger. He just has more weapons.”

If you count his sinker and his power fastball as two different pitches, then he threw a five-pitch arsenal as the M’s on Monday. Yes, the sinker was the workhorse pitch, comprising 38 of his 105 pitches. His next-favorite selection, however, was his curveball, the onetime show-me pitch in his arsenal. He threw 22 of them, 12 of strikes, five for swings and misses, according to brooksbaseball.net. All five whiffs came from left-handed hitters, who had four more off his changeup.

“I think coming into the game, knowing they had a lot of left-handed hitters, knowing that breaking ball was going to be a big pitch for me to be effective tonight, we really used it a lot early,” Porcello said. “Started to get some swings and misses and some effective outs with it, so we kind of kept going to it and it worked out.”

He struck out seven of Seattle’s first 19 hitters, three of them on curves. Other times, the curve and changeup set up hitters for the fastball, which Porcello was able to spot.

“I knew that offspeed pitches were going to be real big today,” he said. “They only had two right-handed hitters in the lineup. A lot of times, a lineup that’s right-handed heavy I can rely on my sinker a lot more but when we get left-handed hitters up there, they seem to hit the sinker a lot better. The offspeed pitches were big and we knew that going in and that was our game plan was to keep it those down. Alex [Avila] called a great game and we were both in sync.”

Porcello said he thought the curveball was the key pitch for him, while Jim Leyland thought it was the changeup. Either way, the two gave him a chance against lefties.

“I think he’s executing pitches better,” Leyland said, “and that’s a weapon against a left-hander. He can throw a sinker down and away and got some ground balls, but you also have to have something to get [hitters] off the sinker, because you keep throwing sinkers and you throw a high sinker, they go a long way. His offspeed stuff is getting better as we speak. That’s been a big key for him.”

Porcello drops appeal, will serve suspension

As expected, Rick Porcello dropped the appeal of his suspension this morning. He’ll begin serving it today, which would give him four games served before the All-Star break.

Porcello indicated that the suspension might have been reduced to five games from six, but there’s no official word on that yet. The difference is probably academic, basically a matter of serving one game of suspension next weekend in Kansas City or two. Considering Max Scherzer is currently the only Tigers pitcher who’s expected to pitch in the All-Star Game (unless Anibal Sanchez is added), the Tigers will have plenty of options for who can start out of the break.

Why Tigers could time Porcello’s appeal right

Dodgers utility player Skip Schumaker had his appeal heard Tuesday in his two-game suspension, according to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. On almost every other day of the year, that wouldn’t be news to Tigers fans.

But Schumaker’s appeal Tuesday was in regards to the suspension he received from the Dodgers-Diamondbacks brawl in mid-June. That timing should interest Tigers fans now that Rick Porcello is appealing the six-game suspension MLB issued yesterday for hitting Ben Zobrist on Sunday at Tampa Bay.

Likewise, Eric Hinske’s appeal from that same brawl was heard last week.

The Tigers can tweak their rotation out of the All-Star break so that Porcello doesn’t miss any starts during his suspension, but that hinges on Porcello making his next two starts Friday in Cleveland and Wednesday against the White Sox. If his appeal is still ongoing next Thursday, he could drop it, serve four days before the break, then miss the first two games out of the break in Kansas City.

Porcello suspended six games for hitting Zobrist

It appears that Rays manager Joe Maddon wasn’t alone in his reaction to Rick Porcello’s pitch off Ben Zobrist’s shoulder on Sunday. Major League Baseball just announced a six-game suspension for Porcello along with an undisclosed fine.

The six-game suspension is common for a starting pitcher in this instance, usually ensuring that he misses a turn in the rotation and the team has to fill his spot. Because this suspension falls so close to the All-Star break, however, the Tigers can tinker their rotation order out of the break so that Porcello, who’s on turn to pitch next Wednesday, doesn’t have to replaced. To do that, though, they need his appeal to last into the middle of next week.

Porcello said he has appealed the suspension, but declined comment aside from that. Jim Leyland had no comment either way.

If the appeals process doesn’t stretch out long enough, the Tigers could use Jose Alvarez in Porcello’s place. Leyland said today that Anibal Sanchez will return to the rotation Saturday in Cleveland.

Game 55: What to make of Leyland’s mea culpa

Jim Leyland rarely does it, but every so often when a game goes awry after a move he has made, he puts the blame entirely on his decision and doles out none of the blame elsewhere. It might be once a year, but for one day, he takes it all on himself.

Sunday’s series finale in Baltimore was that day for him.

“I put this one on me, solely on me,” Leyland said. “[Porcello] was pitching terrific. I understand that. If it was different, the way the lineup was setting up, it would’ve been OK. But the way it set up, I botched it. It was my fault, nobody’s fault but me.”

It was an unusual thing for Leyland to say about one of his best starters over the past few weeks, a starter who took a streak of 16 consecutive scoreless innings into that seventh inning in question. If Porcello had been pulled after six innings and 87 pitches with a 2-0 lead, he would have taken all kinds of criticism, even if the Tigers had held on. The question would’ve been when Leyland was going to trust Porcello to pitch as deep as Detroit’s other four starters.

However, Leyland argued, it would have been the right move.

The reasoning from Leyland was twofold. The O’s had back-to-back left-handed hitters due up to start the seventh inning in Major League home run leader Chris Davis and DH Chris Dickerson. The Tigers had Phil Coke and Darin Downs available. Though Porcello’s splits aren’t as big this year between left and right-handed hitters, the former have historically given him his biggest trouble.

Left-handed hitters were 3-for-20 with eight strikeouts off Phil Coke coming into the day. Get him in at that point, and if he can retire both lefties, Leyland could play matchups against J.J. Hardy with a right-hander like Jose Ortega.

The other factor is that Porcello, though he had retired Davis and Dickerson twice already, was going to have to try to get them out a third time. And while Porcello’s curveball has been a huge pitch for him against lefties, both hitters had already seen it.

Again, it’s a somewhat surprising view towards a pitcher who just went eight scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts in his last start. And it overshadowed the other issues the Tigers faced in that game, from an Alex Avila bunt that turned into a double play to Coke’s struggles in a tight situation to the eighth-inning ball that Andy Dirks seemingly misjudged in left field.

One can question whether Leyland should have had Coke and Ortega warming up leading into the seventh inning so that Leyland could go to his bullpen if somebody reached base. To question whether he should have started that inning at all seemed unusual for Leyland, but in hindsight, he felt strongly about it. He also felt that once the inning got to Hardy, sticking with Porcello against the right-handed hitter in a potential double play situation was the best option.

“In my gut, I knew,” Leyland said. “I just had that feeling when I sent him out there that I should’ve made the move. And your gut usually tells you the right thing.”

Porcello, Sanchez, Verlander start off Tigers spring slate

The main news out of Tigers camp Monday morning were the starting assignments for the first few games of the Grapefruit League. Remember, the Tigers don’t play their annual exhibition against Florida Southern until the middle of March. Instead, they’ll dive straight into Major League play by facing the Braves at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex on Friday.

Rick Porcello will start that game. Anibal Sanchez will start Saturday against the Blue Jays at Joker Marchant Stadium. Justin Verlander starts Sunday against the Phillies in Lakeland. All of those games start at 1:05pm ET, and all of them will be on 97.1 FM back in Detroit and online at MLB Gameday Audio.

Still to be slotted are Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Drew Smyly. The Tigers are trying to juggle six starters for five spots, and they’re trying to stretch out Casey Crosby’s innings as well to get him ready for a likely assignment in the rotation at Triple-A Toledo, so they’ll have some juggling to do. They have only one set of split-squad games, which comes up on March 2.

Seven eligible Tigers file for arbitration

It’s a formality, but still worth noting that the seven Tigers eligible for arbitration all filed on Tuesday. The list includes three members of rotation (Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello), two members of the starting lineup (Alex Avila, Austin Jackson), lefty Phil Coke and outfielder Brennan Boesch.

Basically, what it means is that none of them have apparently reached deals yet to avoid arbitration. There’s still plenty of time for that, but the next big milepost in the process will come on Friday, when they’ll exchange arbitration figures with the team. That’s usually the step that gets both sides moving towards a deal, because it provides a range to use to find a middle ground. From there, the two sides have until at least Feb. 4 to negotiate before hearings begin taking place.

The Tigers have not had to go to an arbitration ruling since Dave Dombrowski took over as GM in 2002. They’ve come close a couple times, but usually they settle soon after the two sides exchange numbers.

Pitching updates: Fister could start Wednesday

The pitching news coming out of Saturday’s win was a little bit surprising. Manager Jim Leyland decided to go ahead and move Justin Verlander up to start Thursday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on his standard four days’ rest, despite 127 pitches over six innings against the Reds this afternoon. The extra rest for Verlander before this start was a big factor.

When asked if that means Rick Porcello will have his start moved up to Wednesday, however, Leyland said he wants to wait and see on Doug Fister, who had an encouraging session here. Fister is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, so he could start the middle game of the series at Wrigley.

Fister is dealing with a left side strain coming out of his Memorial Day start at Fenway Park. He has been throwing off of flat ground, but throwing hard. If he feels good in a mound session, that could be the trigger that gets on out on the mound again as soon as possible.

No word on how far Porcello would be pushed back if Fister’s ready, or if Casey Crosby would move to the bullpen.

UPDATE: Sunday’s Tigers notes list Porcello as the scheduled start for Wednesday. Will check during pregame interviews later today to see if that’s now a lock.

On the bullpen front, Octavio Dotel said he’s feeling better, but still not ready to go. He’s hoping that if he feels good throwing on Sunday, he can be available in the bullpen Tuesday in Chicago.

 

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