Results tagged ‘ Rick Porcello ’
There are a lot of ways to measure how long this three-city, nine-game road trip has been. The weight of my suitcase is one. But here’s another: A week ago, on the first stop of this trip, there were two scouts from other American League teams who were following the Tigers, and suggested that if it was up them, they would put Brad Penny in Detroit’s postseason rotation over Rick Porcello. The reason they cited was experience, plus an abundance of left-handed hitters from a potential opponent.
With a week left in the regular season, it’s increasingly difficult to see it happening. His recent experience has been a challenge.
Five starts have passed since Penny outpitched David Price in Tampa Bay, paving the path for the Tigers to take three out of four from the Rays and establish themselves among the teams to watch in the league. It was a prime example how valuable Penny can be in a big situation. Since then, Penny has given up 31 runs, 23 earned, on 41 hits over 25 innings, bumping his ERA a half-run to 5.31 for the season.
He has had stretches where he has shown the ability to cover quality innings even when he hasn’t had his best stuff. That wasn’t the case Tuesday, when an aggressive Royals lineup never quite let him off the ropes.
Manager Jim Leyland said after the game that he gave Penny a shot against Eric Hosmer with two outs in the fourth inning in a situation when he might have otherwise gone to one of his lefty relievers.
“He could’ve come out of there at 4-0,” Leyland said, “but I wanted to put that little challenge out there for him. Normally, I would’ve brought in the lefty for Hosmer and Francoeur. Just find out.”
Hosmer went deep for a three-run homer and a 7-0 Royals lead.
Porcello hasn’t quite had the same stuff that helped him go 5-0 in July, but he has been a lot better than he was in August. He also pitched in a playoff atmosphere in 2009. He’s scheduled to start Friday against the Orioles with a streak of three straight quality starts going. Both Porcello and Penny have one more start left after that — Penny against the O’s on Sunday, Porcello possibly the season finale against the Indians next Wednesday. One would expect that by the latter, we’ll know the Tigers rotation and order for the Division Series.
The thing with Penny is that his use as a reliever is somewhat limited. He’s someone who has a lengthy warmup routine when he starts, and it would be difficult to give them that much time to warm up in a relief situation unless it’s a game coming out of a rain delay. That said, he has the level of experience nobody out there does.
Starting is Penny’s best shot at the postseason. Right now, he’s struggling to find that form that made him valuable in playoff-type matchups before. It’s not a situation to take lightly, because like many veterans, Penny weighed the market last winter for another shot at the postseason.
With the way the Tigers rallied back to win Friday night, it was almost an afterthought when manager Jim Leyland brought up the question about his lineup usage. But the fact that Alex Avila homered for the third time in his last three games became a reference point for him, so he had admittedly overused him for a stretch this year.
“You lose when you have your regulars in there, too,” Leyland said. “That’s what a lot of times, people don’t understand. They think when you don’t play your regulars, you lose, but if you play your regulars every day, you win. It doesn’t work that way. You lose no matter who you play sometimes up here.
“I’m not making excuses. I’m just saying I’m going to have to watch [Avila], but I think he’s freshened up a little bit. But like I said, it’s my fault, because I played him into the ground prior to the [All-Star] break.”
That was a longer-term decision. The short-term decision he made Friday concerned when to get Rick Porcello out of the game. When Royals rookie third baseman Mike Moustakas came up with a 3-for-42 mark against left-handed pitchers this year, that was his time.
“I feel bad for Rick,” Leyland said. “He deserved a win tonight. He pitched tremendous. But that’s the way it goes. We got the win, and that’s the most important thing. But I did feel bad for him. …
“They had a little momentum going. The stage was set. But I chose to go to the left-hander because the young kid’s hitting .071 against left-handed pitching. Didn’t work. Wasn’t very smart. But I’d do it again if they get the momentum going like that. Late in games, when a team gets momentum going, the guy’s later into the game, even though [Porcello's] pitch count was fantastic.”
The numbers were impossible to ignore. The downfall was that Phil Coke made what Leyland called a “terrible” pitch, a two-strike curveball that Moustakas was able to pull inside first base and produce an RBI single.
Rick Porcello doesn’t have that look at last year when he talks about his struggles. A year ago, he looked exasperated, like his mind was spinning into overdrive trying to figure out why he wasn’t able to get the ground-ball outs that were so plentiful in 2009. Porcello believes he’s on the right track now, and he sounds mature about it.
That’s his look off the field. On the field, he’s taking a beating these last three starts.
To be fair, one of those three games was a debacle of singles at Dodger Stadium last Wednesday, when he looked like a hard-luck pitcher. Another was a Coors Field game for a sinkerball pitcher, and as Mike Hampton might attest, those don’t go well sometimes.
Tuesday was a different feel. If Willie Harris had gotten to second base on his fourth-inning shot off the right field fence, then Porcello would’ve given up the cycle in four batters and just five pitches. Their singles were not cheapies.
It was the kind of outing that, when coupled with the other two, creates concern on a ballclub and a task for a pitching coach.
“Obviously tonight, it was just one of those things,” Rick Knapp said after the game. “He felt like they were on him, and he tried. He used his other pitches. He used his slider. He used his curveball. I thought he threw a couple good curveballs tonight. But at the same time, if he doesn’t execute his best pitch consistently, that’s when he’s going to get hurt.”
The mix of pitches was there for Porcello on Tuesday. The finishing pitch with two strikes was not. Divide Porcello’s 47 strikes thrown by the 11 hits he allowed, and he had just over 4.25 strikes per hit. He also had just two swings and misses from Mets hitters. His 2-to-1 ratio of groundouts to flyouts was good, but that’s because the vast majority of the balls they hit in the air against him went for hits.
“Tonight he threw some bad pitches that they hit, and he threw some decent pitches that they hit,” Jim Leyland said. “It just wasn’t his night.”
When you hear about hitters doing damage on good pitches, and hitters barely missing any pitches, one of the first things to come to mind is whether a pitcher is tipping his pitches. It’s something pitchers and coaches don’t like to talk about much, and they weren’t saying a whole lot after the game Tuesday. But it’s safe to say they’re looking at it, looking for anything that might even give a hint.
When those numbers are coming against a pitcher like Porcello, who focuses on one very good pitch that can get outs even when hitters know it’s coming, then it can be a different question. Is he throwing his secondary pitches well enough to keep hitters honest? Is he executing the bread-and-butter pitch?
Statistically, Porcello had one of his better mixes going, with double-digit pitch totals in four different pitches. But his slider, which often complements his sinker, just wasn’t working, getting just seven strikes out of 15 pitches, and his changeup was marginally better.
Look at his strike zone plot on brooksbaseball.net, too, and though he had some pitches low, almost all of them were first-pitch balls, which led to second-pitch strikes higher up in the zone. The two swing-and-miss strikes he got were both on high pitches.
“I think it’s just a matter of pitch making,” Porcello said. “I think early on [this season, when he was on], I was down in the zone very consistently and lately, balls have been coming up. I’ve been paying the price for it. It just can’t go any further. I’ve got to squash it and make sure that everything I’m throwing is down in the zone and keeping guys off-balance with a good mix of pitches.
“I definitely felt like today and in previous bad outings, I think guys have been all over my fastball, especially left-handed hitters. That’s been kind of na ongoing thing for me that I’ve got to make sure I shut down lefties in the lineup. Almost all the lineups I’m going to face are stacked with left-handed hitters. That’s just an ongoing challenge.”
I asked Porcello what he saw as the difference, pitch-wise, between what he threw in Pittsburgh in May over eight scoreless innings and what he threw Tuesday night.
“I think there’s not a big difference between my stuff in Pittsburgh and now,” he said. “In fact, I think velocity-wise, it was the best my fastball has been all year. I felt like I had a pretty sharp slider again. It’s just a matter of throwing strikes and putting the pressure on them to (with) pitches.”
It might well have been that the Pirates simply didn’t hit him well, or that the Mets hit him particularly well. But unlike last year, he calls this a bump in the road.
I know the question will come up among fans whether Porcello needs to go to Toledo to work things out. At this point, I would say no. It wasn’t that long ago that he was pitching effectively, and it’s abundantly clear that the Tigers need to get him going here to have any shot at doing things in October. I don’t see any other clear candidate as a third starter right now. I don’t think Jacob Turner is ready for that yet, and I think Andy Oliver has his own set of circumstances. You have to be able to throw someone other than Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer at a team, and when Porcello is right, he’s by far the best of the rest.
The sight of Phil Coke leaving soon after the clubhouse opened this afternoon was a pretty good sign the Tigers anticipated a long night. They were sending him to Boston on a flight ahead of the team. As it turned out, the rain never allowed them to get going.
After waiting for nearly two hours, the Tigers finally called the game just after 9 p.m. They’ll make it up with a 7:05 p.m. ET game on Monday, June 27, which was a scheduled off-day for both Detroit and Toronto. Fans holding tickets for tonight’s game can use it for that night with no exchange necessary.
As for the rotation, Phil Coke and Justin Verlander will remain on turn for the upcoming two-game series at Boston. The Tigers are skipping tonight’s scheduled starter, Rick Porcello, who hasn’t pitched since his rain-shortened start last Tuesday at Minnesota. He’s expected to make his next scheduled turn Sunday at Pittsburgh. Again, that’s weather permitting, which given the forecast for Boston is far from a sure thing.
It’s the second time this season Porcello has been skipped. When the Tigers did it last month, though, it was planned well ahead of time, with two scheduled off-days in a five-day span. Porcello pitched April 20, then not again until April 30. The rest did nothing to cause rust, as Porcello kept rolling through what is now a five-game stretch with seven earned runs over 31 2/3 innings, good for a 1.99 ERA.
With a gorgeous afternoon in Detroit, Victor Martinez hit the field to get in his first real workout since he went on the 15-day disabled list. The results were very encouraging for him to return from his groin strain once he’s eligible to come off the DL next week.
“I’m feeling great, man,” Martinez said. “This is the day that I can say it, because this is the first day I went outside and did something.”
Martinez did agility drills, played catch and hit, all without pain. He was among the many Tigers who came out to the ballpark early.
He’s eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday, May 4, the third day of their four-game series against the Yankees.
Around the same time, Rick Porcello was throwing his final side session before he jumps back into the rotation Saturday. They put him on the mound and threw some hitters at him, and he said the 45-pitch session went well. No radar guns that I could see, so unless you’re going on feel, it’s hard to tell whether Porcello was throwing harder.
With two off-days in a five-day span, manager Jim Leyland had a choice to make on shuffling his rotation. He wasn’t going to give Justin Verlander extra rest, since Verlander doesn’t feel comfortable pitching with anything more than a normal turn. He also worked it so that Phil Coke starts next week against both Seattle and Cleveland.
The result is that Rick Porcello will be skipped next turn through the rotation. He’ll start next Saturday against the Indians at Progressive Field, giving him nine days’ rest after his last start at Seattle.
The break will allow Porcello to get him some extra work done. He threw his regular side session today, and he’ll get another one Wednesday, which could include hitters in a live session. He estimates he’ll also get in a few extra long-tossing sessions, which is key for him to continue to build up his velocity.
“It’s slowly coming back,” Porcello said this afternoon. “It was a little bit better last time out, but again, it’s not near where I want it consistently.”
As you probably already know, Jim Leyland said today that Phil Coke would be the extra starter moved to the bullpen for the start of the season until the Tigers need a fifth starter over the weekend of the first home series. Brad Penny will be the fourth starter.
What you might not remember, though, is how Penny’s starts now fit with the rest of the Tigers starters. So here’s a chart for the Tigers rotation:
March 31 (Opening Day) at Yankees: Justin Verlander
April 2 at Yankees: Brad Penny
April 3 at Yankees: Max Scherzer
April 4 at Orioles (O’s home opener): Rick Porcello
April 6 at Orioles: Justin Verlander
April 7 at Orioles: Brad Penny
April 8 vs. Royals (home opener): Max Scherzer
April 9 vs. Royals: Phil Coke
April 10 vs. Royals: Rick Porcello (presumably)
The Tigers winter caravan has gotten creative in recent years, from Magglio Ordonez checking in passengers at Detroit Metro Airport last winter to training exercises at the Detroit Fire Department’s academy a couple years ago. This year, the Tigers have some other diversions in store.
The Tigers have moved back Rick Porcello’s scheduled start for Triple-A
Toledo from Friday and Saturday, leading to speculation that Detroit
could be lining up their onetime prized prospect to pitch in front of
scouts at Toledo rather than on the road. Jon Paul Morosi of
FOXSports.com presented the idea, as well as team president/general
manager Dave Dombrowski’s unwillingness to list Porcello as
“untouchable,” and speculated if he could be a piece in a trade for a
starting pitcher such as Arizona’s Dan Haren.
however, that the Tigers’ decision might have more to do with having Porcello
rejoin the Tigers next weekend rather than pitch for another team
anytime soon. The Tigers have a day-night doubleheader next Saturday at
Cleveland, and Dombrowski said earlier this week that one of those games
would be a spot start either for somebody from the Minor Leagues or a
current reliever. Moving him back a day would set him up to pitch
next Saturday night on six days’ rest.
The Mud Hens have their
All-Star break next Monday through Wednesday, so Porcello can’t be
slotted to start Saturday on normal rest. Starting Porcello on Sunday
night would make more sense that way, but if that game were to be rained
out or his outing rain-shortened, the Tigers would have to ponder other
options, or which there are few in Toledo.
struggled in his last two starts for the Mud Hens, allowing 10 runs on
17 hits over 13 innings combined. Those numbers don’t add up to a strong
resume to start in the big leagues again, but the Tigers don’t have a
lot of options. It would be a one-time start until Armando Galarraga
rejoins Detroit’s rotation July 20.
A Major League source said the Tigers are not shopping Porcello. As for any trade interest with the
Diamondbacks, Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew might appear to be a more
realistic target than Haren at the moment. Morosi reports that the Tigers and Diamondbacks aren’t in serious talks on Haren.
As for the rotation, neither Tigers management nor coaches are talking about who’s starting out of the All-Star break next weekend. Manager Jim Leyland said he knows who’s starting, but he doesn’t want to talk about it right now.
What was expected to be a big night for the Tigers’ pitching staff at Triple-A Toledo ended up producing some disappointing results. Both Rick Porcello and Ryan Perry struggled for the Mud Hens against Gwinnett Tuesday night at Fifth Third Field.