Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello's new approach, sense of humor on display with Spinners

Rob Bradford
August 15, 2015 - 7:20 pm

LOWELL -- Rick Porcello had never been on the disabled list prior to his current sore triceps-induced stretch. So, what's he think of the 16-day experience to date? "It [stinks]." He then went on to elaborate. "I'€™ve tried to use that time as productively as possible," Porcello explained. "Maintain my arm slot, working on my sinker and mentally getting back to some of the simple things that have made me effective in the past. It does [stink] knowing that I'€™m not going out there every fifth day, but at the same time I want to use that time as productive as possible so I can finish this season strong, get back on track and go into next year knowing what I can do." Consider that on the day he has to make his first rehab assignment start, Saturday, he can't be around his club to watch it put up 22 runs in yet another rout of the Mariners at Fenway Park. "I could probably win one of those games," he joked. "It was awesome to see." But despite the DL downtime, there have been positives thrown Porcello's way of late. The latest coming during a 3 2/3-inning start with the Single-A Lowell Spinners at LeLacheur Park. While the righty didn't get an opportunity to reach his goal of 65 pitches against Tri-City due to the game being postponed because of lightning -- (he finished throwing 36 pitches, with one more in bullpen before being ushered off by a nearby bolt of lightning) -- the early evening offered some much-needed hope for Porcello. Other than reaching his preferred pitch count, Porcello accomplished what he wanted while warming up alongside inflatable sumo wrestlers and wearing pitching coach Lance Carter's uniform top (they were out of XL jerseys). He induced ground balls. "I was trying to work on my sinker down in the zone, maintain that same arm slot and be consistent with it," he said of his scoreless outing, which included three hits. "It felt good. Hits, or swings, or outs, it'€™s hard to gauge off of that what your ball'€™s doing, but I could tell I had good sink and most importantly I was locating and worked from the down and below and not elevating. "I have to get back to what I did best, sink the ball and get my ground balls back up. That'€™s really what I'€™m committing to the rest of the year, get back to what I'€™ve done over the past six years and that'€™s inking the ball and keeping the ball on the ground. I'€™m really committed to throwing my sinker and feeling it out and getting it back to where it needs to be." Porcello's season has been well-documented, with the 26-year-old carrying a 5.81 ERA over his 20 starts. Along with veering off from the kind of production he exhibited a year ago, the starter has also gone away from his bread and butter sinker, resulting in a ground ball rate (43 percent) significantly lower than his career average of over 50 percent. This is why he has dug in on the new approach for the final six weeks or so. "A little bit of both," he said when asked if the lack of grounders could be attributed to pitch selection or execution. "It'€™s a combination of everything. There'€™s not one thing I can post to with my prior struggles this year that I can necessarily say, '€˜That'€™s the problem.'€™ A lot of inconsistencies as far as executing pitches and doing some different things that maybe I don'€™t need to do. It'€™s really about simplifying and getting back to my strengths and taking that and carrying that forward." What happens now? All he knows is that he will be footing the bill for the entire Spinners squad, sending over steak from the high-end eatery Cobblestones. It's a tradition he learned while hosting rehabbing major leaguers as a minor-leager. "Dontrelle [Willis] was basically on our Florida State League team. He bought a lot of spread," Porcello said. "He was actually always ragging me because I was drafted in the first round to buy a spread." Because of the lightning-shortened contest, after the food delivery pitcher has to wait and see to uncover what the future holds. The likelihood is that there will be one more rehab outing and then a return to the big leagues. In the meantime Porcello at least feels a bit better about his initial foray into life on the DL. "I felt strong," he said. "I felt like I could continue to pitch and maintain my pitch count, my velocity and strength. We'€™ll see what they say and how everything responds tomorrow and the next day. Right now I feel really good. I felt like it was definitely a positive."