Now that the Red Sox appear to have passed on signing James Shields (it has been written that his reputation as a fly-ball pitcher settled the issue), the stopper problem remains. I recently wrote about Joe Kelly, but if you look over career stats, Rick Porcello is a stronger possiblity.
A New Jersey native, the 26-year-old righty first attracted notice in his senior year at Seton Hall Prep in West Orange. His record was 10-0 with 103 K’s and a 1.44 ERA in 63 innings. He was also named 06-07 Gatorade national player of the year. After signing a letter of intent for North Carolina, he decided to forego college and accept Detroit’s offer of $ 7 million (4 years and two one-year options). His $3.5 million signing bonus was the second-highest ever given out by the team.
Porcello played the 08 season at Class A Lakeland, Fla, and proved he was ready for the majors at the ripe age of 20. Spring training in 09 saw him post a 2.63 ERA and make the starting rotation. His debut was against Toronto, and soon he beat Seattle for his first win, retiring the last 14 batters he faced. In May, he won five starts in a row, the first Tiger 20 or younger to accomplish the feat. He finished the year 14-9 and 3.96 and was third in Rookie of the Year voting.
Like many young hurlers, Porcello faded in his sophomore season, beginning the year at 4-7. After some time in Triple A, however, he returned and went 5-1 in his last 7 starts, though he finished with a high ERA of 4.92.
The next three seasons saw Rick go 37-29 while making 30-plus starts. For a sinkerballer, his ERA and hits-to-innings ratio were rather high. His walk-strikeout ratio, however, was excellent, as he fanned a career-high 142 in 2013.
After signing his third consecutive one-year deal in 2014, Porcello rebounded for a career-best 3.43 ERA while throwing three complete-game shutouts. Though struggling down the stretch, he won 15, another high, and topped 200 innings for the first time.
Like Shields, Porcello has been very durable, averaging 30 starts over 6 seasons. And also like Shields, his postseason record is very average, at 0-2 and 4.41 in 8 appearences, 6 of them in relief. His playoff experience, however, is a plus.
Though he does not throw particularly hard, Rick has a variety of pitches-two kinds of sinking fastballs, a strong changeup and a curve. His control has been excellent, averaging only 44 walks per season.
The biggest plus the Porcello brings to the rotation is both youth and experience, a combination the Sox totally lacked in 2014. Entering spring training, he probably has the best chance to start on opening day. But April is still a long way off.