Entering play on Tuesday, Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello was 1-1 with a 7.30 ERA in four Spring Training starts. He exited play on Tuesday with a 1-2 record and an ERA of 7.85 in five Spring Training starts.
Making his final preseason appearance, Porcello took on the Atlanta Braves this afternoon and went six innings, allowed six earned runs, gave up 10 hits, including a pair of home runs, walked one and struck out five. The Tigers ultimately fell to the Braves by a score of 12-3. Surely, Porcello would have preferred to end Spring Training on a more positive note.
Porcello already has five years of MLB experience under his belt, and he has had a decent run by going 61-50 with a 4.51 ERA over that time period. That said, the 25-year-old sinker-baller has not exactly evolved into the type of pitcher that the Tigers ultimately thought he would become when they drafted him in the first round of the 2007 draft either.
This winter, many believed that 2014 would finally be the year where Porcello would notch 16 or 17 wins and post an ERA below 4.00 for the first time since his rookie campaign of 2009. The hope that Porcello would take his game to another level in 2014 was based on the improvements that he showed while toeing the rubber last season.
In 2013, Porcello recorded career-bests in strikeouts, WHIP and winning percentage. He even hurled the first complete game of his young career. As a matter of fact, part of the reason why Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski was willing to part ways with starting pitcher Doug Fister last December was precisely because the Tigers believed that Porcello was ready to step into the role of a No. 4 starter.
One should not read too far into Spring Training numbers, and it is still very possible that Porcello will in fact put together a career year in 2014. However, he needs to get together with Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones rather quickly and figure out what has been going wrong this spring. The Tigers’ season will be underway in merely six days, and they cannot afford to see Porcello pitch like he has been in Spring Training.
Tigers fans have been waiting for more than half a decade to see the emergence of Porcello. If it does not happen in 2014, one may be tempted to wonder if it will ever happen.