MLB

Tigers taking it slowly with Porcello

Share This Story

Jon Paul Morosi

Jon Paul Morosi is a National MLB Writer for FOXSports.com. He previously covered baseball for the Detroit Free Press and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He began his journalism career at the Bay City Times in his native Michigan. Follow him on Twitter.

MORE>>
 
   
 
Every fifth day, the odometer rolls forward. Sometimes, it's five innings. Sometimes, it's six innings. Rarely, it's seven innings. But never more than that. And never — not yet, at least — more than 100 pitches. Rick Porcello's rookie season in Detroit has been one part brilliance, one part guidance. Between the front office and manager's office at Comerica Park, there have been discussions about how many innings Porcello ought to throw this year. The team hasn't said what it is, but 180 would be a reasonable guess. So far, the plan has worked splendidly. Porcello leads American League rookies in victories, and the Tigers are in first place. Pretty good for someone who was going to graduation parties — high school graduation parties — at this time two years ago. Porcello is 20 years old, and will be all season, which brings questions about whether the long-term good has been sacrificed for short-term gain. But to the extent that a team can be prudent in tying its fortunes to a still-developing arm, the Tigers have done so responsibly. And to state the obvious: Porcello's maturity and aptitude have made it all work. "He's doing OK," manager Jim Leyland said Wednesday, before Porcello started in a 5-3 victory over the Cubs. "He would've liked to have been out there a little longer in a couple games, but I'm kind of watching it. So far, he's doing fine. "We knew, if we took him, we were going to have to protect him. It's nothing new. We all knew that to start with." Porcello has had some memorable starts this year, but Wednesday's effort was not one of them. He was good but not great, allowing two earned runs in five innings. He blended a four-seam fastball, changeup, slider and curveball with his trademark sinker. Four walks kept him from lasting longer. He said he was "OK." Leyland said he was "a little antsy" but still "pretty good." As for the closely-watched pitch count, the right-hander from New Jersey pulled in at 97. Just like a kid's temperature: If he's under 100, he's probably all right. Porcello gets it. He's not smart for his age. He's smart. He understands that short starts mean long nights for the bullpen. (Six relievers pitched Wednesday.) He would love to pitch deeper into games. But he's wise enough to wait.
"I know where I'm at, as far as the pitch count goes," Porcello said. "I know, if I'm creeping up toward 90, 95 pitches, that's probably going to be my limit right now. Skip and I, we've talked about it. I know how much he's going to let me go. It's up to me to get outs in that amount of pitches." Porcello is currently 8-4 with a 3.55 ERA. He's averaging around 5 2/3 innings per start. At that rate, he would throw just under 170 innings during a 30-start regular season. (Some creativity in All-Star break scheduling could afford Porcello an extended breather.) While we can agree that each big-league inning is a little more rigorous than, say, an Eastern League inning, the arithmetic isn't much different now than it would have been if Porcello were pitching in the minors right now. Porcello threw 125 innings last year, all at Single-A Lakeland. Jon Matlack, the Tigers' minor league pitching coordinator, said Wednesday that he would have held Porcello between 90 and 100 pitches in each start this year, with an overall target of 175 innings. Sound familiar? Leyland isn't prepared to let Porcello exceed the 100-pitch mark now, but he hasn't ruled out the possibility of relaxing the restriction later. The same may be true of the innings ceiling, which may not turn out to be that rigid in the end. "You have an idea going in, but you also have to use a little common sense and see how it's going," Leyland said. "If it's going better than you expected, I don't think it's bad to extend him 10 pitches, 15 pitches. I don't think it's bad to extend him a few innings." Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said the team is considering a number of factors in projecting Porcello's workload, including his innings total last year, his delivery type, the total number of pitches he's thrown this year and how hard he's had to work during his innings. Porcello has attributes that will buy him extra outs, in accordance with those guidelines: He has a fluid delivery, and his power sinker induces well-timed double plays, as happened twice on Wednesday. "He's not a max-effort guy," Leyland said. "That makes a big difference. But I'm going to watch him." It's not known if Porcello's representatives made any suggestions to the team about his innings limit. The Scott Boras Corp. negotiated his $7 million major-league contract following the 2007 draft, but Porcello has since changed agents. He's now represented by the Houston-based firm of Randy and Alan Hendricks. Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw may be the most relevant comparison for Porcello among recent 20-year-old pitchers. Kershaw threw 122 innings as a minor leaguer in 2007, followed by an increase to 169 in the regular season last year, of which 107 2/3 were in the big leagues. He added two in the playoffs. Kershaw did not arrive at that total by accident. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Wednesday that team officials determined a 50-inning increase would be acceptable. "But the best criteria are what you see and how those innings are accumulated," Colletti added. "Had he accumulated more 'stress innings,' his total would have been less." Former A's and Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson believes that annual increases of 30 innings are optimal for developing pitchers. A bump of 40 innings or more, he said, could cause concern. But when Peterson was told that Porcello exceeded 90 pitches only three times entering Wednesday, he replied, "That's very wise of them. You can tell that they're being very cognizant of his workload. They're doing the best they can." And if Porcello keeps this up, the Tigers may be there in October, calculators in hand, huddled in a debate over whether Porcello should keep starting after "Series" becomes a proper noun. I think we all have a hunch as to what the answer would be.
Tagged: Tigers, Dodgers, Mets, Clayton Kershaw

More Stories From Jon Paul Morosi



MLB Videos

Bautista talks Derek Jeter's final All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Jose Bautista discusses Derek Jeter's career and his final appearance in the MLB...

Jeter honored to play in last All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Derek Jeter compares his first All-Star Game experience with his last, Mike Trou...

Matheny defends Wainwright: He's out there to compete Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Mike Matheny comments on the media's reaction to Adam Wainwright's joke about le...

SimLeague Baseball - Simulation Baseball Game

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Yankees/browse/featuredproduct/606363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_606000/ff_606363_xl.jpg&w=100 27.95 Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash
    Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/1064043/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1064000/ff_1064043_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Gray http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067359/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067359_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room Pullover Hoodie - Steel http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067382/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067382_xl.jpg&w=100 54.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room 39THIRTY Flex Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067785/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067785_xl.jpg&w=100 31.95 New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Ro..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068294/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068294_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Bl..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice Performance Jersey - Black/Orange http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068787/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068787_xl.jpg&w=100 94.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice P..