Red Sox 25 in 25: Rick Porcello


The BoSox Injection staff’s preview of the Boston Red Sox 25-man roster continues with a look at starting pitcher Rick Porcell0.

There were a lot of reasons to be disappointed with the Boston Red Sox last season, but Rick Porcello‘s name is bound to be near the top of that list.

The first handful of years that Porcello spent with the Detroit Tigers showed that he was a below-average back of the rotation starter, until a breakout year in 2014 convinced the Red Sox that he was on the verge of becoming ace material at the age of 26. Not only did they surrender the powerful bat of Yoenis Cespedes to acquire Porcello in a trade last winter (which indirectly led to the ill-fated Hanley Ramirez signing), but the Red Sox also handed their new starter a four-year, $82.5 million extension in April, ensuring he would be paid like a front line starter before he ever threw a regular season pitch for them.

It didn’t take long for that decision to backfire. Porcello’s tenure with the Red Sox got off to a rocky start when he went 2-2 with a 5.34 ERA in April, only for his production to somehow get progressively worse each month through the end of the summer. His bloated ERA stood at a dreadful 5.81 before the Red Sox sent him to the disabled list for a hiatus that was as much about clearing his mind as it was about recovering from any physical ailments.

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By that point the damage to Porcello’s reputation had already been done, but there were some promising signs from him down the stretch following his return in late August. In his first start after being activated, Porcello blanked the Chicago White Sox over 7 innings, starting a stretch that saw him post six quality starts over his final eight appearances. Porcello went 4-4 with a 3.14 ERA over those final eight starts, appearing to be a completely different pitcher than the train wreck that took the mound in the first half of the season.

The time off did Porcello well, as he managed to fixed the flaws in his mechanics that derailed his season. The biggest issue that plagued him was his tendency to give up the long ball, as he surrendered 20 home runs through his first 20 starts. When he returned from the disabled list he allowed only five 5 home runs over 8 starts, while lasting at least 6 innings in each of them.

Expectations will be much lower for Porcello entering this season, but that may actually help him. We no longer have to worry about if he will be the one to step up and claim the ace mantel, because the Red Sox now have a legitimate top of the rotation starter in David Price. When Porcello was at his best he was part of a rotation that included star pitchers like Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, which allowed him to pitch under far less scrutiny as his more established teammates filled the spotlight. He even spent the second half of 2014 in the same rotation as Price, so perhaps being teammates with him again will help him return to the pitcher he was in that breakout season.

Next: Red Sox bullpen rankings

Porcello has already been labeled a bust, so there is really nowhere to go but up from here. He probably won’t even live up to the value of that foolish contract extension, but he is capable of bouncing back to the version we saw two years ago. If he becomes a solid No. 3 starter that can deliver close to 200 innings while posting a winning record, the Red Sox will gladly take that at this point.