Rick Porcello

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Frederick Alfred Porcello III

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Biographical Information[edit]

Rick Porcello was selected by the Detroit Tigers with the 27th overall pick in the first round of the 2007 amateur draft. Generally considered one of the best pitching prospects in the draft, perhaps even the best high school pitcher in years, Porcello's stock fell because of his affiliation with Scott Boras. The high-powered agent's demands priced out many potential suitors. Scouted by Bill Buck, Porcello was set to attend the University of North Carolina if negotiations failed but the Tigers and the high school phenom settled on a four-year contract worth $7 million including a $3.58 million signing bonus. He is the grandson of Sam Dente.

High School Career[edit]

The lanky right-hander dominated high school competition with an overpowering fastball, a curveball, slider, and a changeup. The quantity and quality of the pitches were thought to be advanced for a pitcher of Porcello's age. Following his junior season in 2006, the Seton Hall Prep product was an Aflac All-American. He continued his reign over New Jersey as a senior in 2007, guiding the team to a third consecutive Non-Public Class A title. Porcello's record was 10-0, his ERA was 0.18, and he fanned 112 in 71 innings. On May 12th, he threw a perfect game against Newark Academy. Porcello was named the 2006-2007 "Gatorade Player of the Year". USA Today named him to their All-USA team.

Minor League Career[edit]

Rick Porcello 2-5858.jpg

Porcello made his pro debut on April 3, 2008 for the Lakeland Flying Tigers. He allowed only one hit in 5 innings, walking two and striking out three while pitching shutout ball in a 4-1 victory over the Tampa Yankees. He peaked at 94 mph on the radar gun in his debut. Porcello had a 8-6, 2.66 record for Lakeland. The youngster led the Florida State League in ERA and made the League All-Star team. Baseball America rated him the best prospect in the entire league, right ahead of J.P. Arencibia. He somehow lost Pitcher of the Year honors to Dylan Owen.

Major League Career: Detroit 2009-2014[edit]

Porcello's debut in the Major Leagues came on April 9, 2009, as the Detroit Tigers played the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto. He was facing Jays pitcher Ricky Romero, who was also making his big league debut. This game was the first time ever that two first-round draft picks faced each other as starting pitchers making their debuts in the majors. [1] He allowed four earned runs in five plus innings, and was charged with the 6-2 loss. He had a solid rookie season, going 14-9 with a 3.96 ERA over 31 starts and 170 2/3 innings.

After his auspicious debut season, Porcello took a step back, and settled into being a reliable but unspectacular number 4 or 5 starter for the Tigers. His ERA jumped by almost a full run to 4.92 in 2010 and then settled at that level, as it was 4.79 in 2011 and 4.59 in 2012. He was still dependable, making 27, 31 and 31 starts during those three seasons and winning in double figures every year, with a second 14-9 season in 2011 sandwiched between seasons of 10-12 the years before and after. While his control was good, he gave up a lot of hits, including an American League leading 226 in 2012. He also did not pitch deep into games, with his personal best over his first four seasons being 182 innings in 2011. After four full seasons as a major league starter, he had not thrown a single complete game. He started and lost a game against the New York Yankees in the 2011 ALDS, then had a no decision in his only start in the 2011 ALCS against the Texas Rangers; he also pitched twice in relief in that series, his first two appearances in a role other than starter at the major league level. In 2012, he was relegated to the back of the bullpen as the Tigers made it all the way to the World Series. He pitched only a third of an inning in the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics and not at all in the ALCS. In the World Series, he pitched a scoreless inning of relief in Game 1 against the San Francisco Giants in an 8-3 loss as the Tigers were swept in four games.

Porcello finally recorded the first complete game of his career on September 10, 2013, in his 147th career start. That day he defeated the Chicago White Sox, 9-1. His season overall was very similar to the previous three, with a relatively high ERA, but a winning record and the proven capacity to take his turn on the mound every fifth day. That made him a useful but unspectacular player, which was a disappointment from the days when he was seen as a future frontline starter for Detroit. He finished the year at 13-8, 4.32, and once again was confined to the bullpen in the postseason. In two appearances, one in the ALDS and one in the ALCS, he failed to record an out, allowing all three batters he faced in the two games to score. Worse, in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, he was charged with the loss when he came on in the bottom of the 9th with the score tied, 5-5. Jonny Gomes hit an infield single and took second when José Iglesias' throw was wild. He then threw a wild pitch and allowed a single to Jarrod Saltalamacchia to end the game.

Porcello had the most successful stretch of his career early in 2014. By defeating the Baltimore Orioles, 4-1, on May 12th, he made it five consecutive starts with a win, improving his record to 6-1, 3.22 after 7 starts. He also won his next start, on May 17th, 6-1 over the Red Sox. On June 26th, he pitched a three-hit shutout to defeat the Texas Rangers, 6-0, and improve to 10-4 on the year. It was the first shutout of his career, and only his second complete game. He made it back-to-back shutouts when he whitewashed the Oakland A's, 3-0, on July 1st. In that game, he neither walked not struck out a single batter, becoming the first pitcher since Dizzy Trout in 1944 to throw such a shutout for the Tigers; Jack Morris, back in 1986, had been the last Bengals pitcher to throw consecutive shutouts. His 13th win on August 2nd came courtesy of an historic offensive performance by the Tigers, as his teammates scored in all 8 innings in which they batted to beat the Colorado Rockies, 11-5. He picked up his 15th win, setting a new career high, on August 26th, when he defeated the New York Yankees, 5-2. He finished the season with a record of 15-13, 3.43, having failed to add to his win total in September. His 204 2/3 innings were also a career best. He was only the team's fourth starter heading into the postseason, and did not get a chance to pitch as the Tigers were eliminated in three games by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS.

Boston 2015-[edit]

On December 11, 2014, Porcello was traded to the Boston Red Sox in return for OF Yoenis Cespedes and Ps Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier. It was a rare trade of established players based on needs and not on contract considerations: the Tigers felt they were strong on the mound with the acquisition of Alfredo Simon in a separate trade the same day, but needed an outfielder to replace Torii Hunter, who had left via free agency. For their part, the Red Sox had a surplus of outfielders, but needed to shore up their starting rotation after failing to lure free agent Jon Lester back to the fold. On April 6, 2015, the Red Sox indicated their confidence in Porcello's future performance by signing him to a four-year contract extension worth $82.5 million. His first season with the team was a big disappointment, as he went 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA in 28 starts.

He turned things around completely in 2016, as he was unbeatable at home in the early going, starting the year with 12-0 mark at Fenway Park after a 16-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 14th. He was the first Boston pitcher since Dave Ferriss, who had been an unbeaten 13-0 at home in 1946, to have such a dominant run from the start of a season. On August 29th, another home win, this one 9-4 over the Tampa Bay Rays, made him the first 18-game winner in the majors that season and tied him with Ferriss with a 13-0 record at Fenway. On September 9th, he became the first twenty-game winner in the majors, and the first for the Red Sox since Josh Beckett in 2007, when he defeated the Blue Jays, 13-3, in a key game between the two AL East leaders. While Porcello benefit from the best run support in the majors to get all those wins, it was still quite an accomplishment for a pitcher that had done very poorly the year before, and in addition to the wins, he was one of the league leaders in innings pitched, a very valuable commodity in its own right. His home winning streak was snapped on September 14th when he allowed a solo homer to Mark Trumbo in 8 innings of work against the Baltimore Orioles, but it was enough to lose, 1-0. He went 22-4, 3.15 on the season and was named the AL Pitcher of the Month for September, when he was 4-1, 2.70 in 6 starts. He was voted the winner of the 2016 American League Cy Young Award, outpointing former teammate Justin Verlander of the Tigers in a very tight vote. He made one start in the postseason, Game 1 of the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians on October 6th. He gave up 5 runs in 4 1/3 innings, including homers to Roberto Perez, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor, and was charged with a 5-4 loss that set the tone for the series as the Indians swept Boston in three games.

Porcello looked more like he had in the postseason and less like a Cy Young Award winner when the 2017 season started. On June 10th, he was one of the workhorses of the American League, leading the circuit with 13 starts and 358 batters faced, but he was also atop the leaderboard with 8 losses and 104 hits allowed in only 80 2/3 innings. After being nearly unbeatable at home in 2016, he seemed to be spooked by Fenway Park, as he was 2-5, 5.10 there. From May 28-July 28, he went 1-9, 4.71, before he suddenly found his groove again in August, when he won his first three starts. That streak included pitching an immaculate inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 9th. He made that four winning starts in a row when he defeated the New York Yankees, 5-1, on August 20th, improving his record to 8-14. He finished the year at 11-17, 4.65, leading the AL in losses as well as hits allowed (236 in 203 1/3 innings) and homers allowed (38). The Red Sox were short on reliable starting pitchers heading into the postseason, and as a result he was tabbed to start Game 4 of the Division Series with Boston facing elimination at the hands of the Houston Astros on October 9th. He was on a short leash, and after giving up 2 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks in the first 3 innings, he was lifted in favor of Chris Sale, making a rare relief appearance with the season on the line as the Sox were trailing, 2-1. The Red Sox did come back, but eventually lost the game, 5-4, ending their season.

Following those roller coaster two seasons, no one knew exactly what to expect from Porcello in 2018, but the early returns were excellent. He won each of his first three starts, including holding the New York Yankees scoreless on just 2 hits and no walks in 7 innings on April 12th. He won that game, 6-3, to improve to 3-0, 1.83, making a key contribution as Boston started the year 12-2. On July 2nd, he matched up against former teammate and fellow Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals and surprised him with the first extra-base hit of his career, a bases-clearing three-run double that floated above the heads of the outfielders who were playing shallow after Washington had elected to issue an intentional walk to Jackie Bradley in order to face him. Those three runs were key to Boston winning the game, 4-3, and Porcello recording his 10th victory of the season. On August 3rd, he pitched perhaps the best game of his career when he defeated the Yankees, 4-1, throwing a one-hitter and needed just 86 pitches. He finished the year at 17-7, 4.28 in 33 starts, logging 191 1/3 innings as Boston won the AL East handily. Uncharacteristically, his first appearance of the postseason came in relief in Game 1 of the Division Series (he had never pitched out of the bullpen since joining the Red Sox). He replaced Matt Barnes in the top of the 8th with Boston holding a 5-3 lead over the Yankees and retired the first two batters of the inning before giving up a single to Gleyber Torres. He then gave way to closer Craig Kimbrel, who got the last four outs of the game and preserved the win. This was the first of a pattern by manager Alex Cora of using starters in key relief situations in the Red Sox's postseason run to a World Series win, and every one of those instances was successful. Porcello took his regular turn as a starter in Game 4 and gave up 1 run in 5 innings to earn the win that clinched the series. He made another successful relief outing in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Astros, pitching a scoreless 8th inning in a 7-5 win. His Game 4 start was not as good, as he gave up 4 runs in 4 innings and was not involved in the decision. His final appearance came when he started Game 3 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 26th; he left the game after allowing just 1 run in 4 1/3 innings in a game that was only decided in the 18th inning.

On June 29, 2019, Porcello became the first pitcher to throw a major league pitch in Europe as he was the starting pitcher for the Red Sox - who were designated as the home team - against the New York Yankees at London Olympic Stadium in the first game of a two-game series. Things did not go so great, as he gave up the first hit on the continent to D.J. LeMahieu, the first batter he faced, and the first homer to Aaron Hicks, on his way to allowing 6 runs in the 1st inning. He was lifted after recording just one out. He was not involved in the decision, as his opponent on the mound, Masahiro Tanaka, also gave up 6 runs in the bottom of the inning and was removed before completing the 1st inning as well. It was a tough year overall, as Rick posted the highest ERA of all qualified American League starters (5.52), making 32 starts with a mere 143 punch outs in 174 1/3rd innings.

sources: Aflac All-American Bio

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL Cy Young Award Winner (2016)
  • AL Shutouts Leader: 2014
  • AL Wins Leader (2016)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 3 (2014, 2016 & 2018)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (2016)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (2014, 2016 & 2017)
  • Won one World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2018


AL Cy Young Award
2015 2016 2017
Dallas Keuchel Rick Porcello Corey Kluber

References[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Ian Browne: "Porcello wins AL Cy Young Award", mlb.com, November 16, 2016. [1]
  • Ian Browne: "Rick rolls: Porcello taking whirlwind in stride: AL Cy Young Award winner welcomes growing acclaim in typical low-key fashion", mlb.com, January 22, 2017. [2]
  • Gabe Lacques: "Why Rick Porcello’s 20th win deserves more acclaim", USA Today Sports, September 12, 2016. [3]
  • Jorge L. Ortiz: "Red Sox's Rick Porcello wins tight race AL Cy Young Award", USA Today Sports, November 16, 2016. [4]

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