By James Nahikian
After a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays last night, the Tigers are back at it today in game number three of the four game set. With the White Sox losing in the Bronx earlier today against the Yankees, Detroit is now 4.5 games out of first place in the Central Division. A win tonight would give Detroit a chance to win the series tomorrow afternoon in the final game between the two teams.
Detroit will hand the ball to Rick Porcello tonight, in a game that will be nationally televised on FOX with the first pitch set for 7:15PM. Porcello, who is 5-5 with a 4.71 ERA, has been pitching very well as of late. The 23-year old’s biggest problem in his career so far has been consistency, but he has put together very strong outings in his last three appearances. Rick dominated a very potent Texas Rangers lineup in his last start, as he logged six innings and only allowed one earned run while striking out seven batters. The start before, he kept in check another strong lineup as he faced the St. Louis Cardinals, Rick pitched seven innings that night and only allowed two earned runs, but was stuck with the loss as St. Louis’ Jake Westbrook pitched a complete game. Finally, in Porcello’s third most recent start, he picked up a win against the Chicago Cubs at historic Wrigley Field.
The righty has all of the tools to be a very effective and successful pitcher. He has had double digit wins in each of his three big league seasons so far, and people still have to realize that Rick is extremely young. Drew Smyly, who is the Tigers’ No. 4 overall prospect, made his big league debut this season, and is now also 23-years old. Smyly has shown positive signs, but has sense struggled to stay in games. Rick has also shown signs, and he has proven that he can be a winning pitcher, but his potential has still not been fully discovered. Porcello made his debut at the age of 20, but people tend to think of him as a veteran when compared to Smyly, but the fact is that the two are both the same age. Which brings to life the reality that Rick still has much to learn, as we are now are seeing first hand the struggles of his peer, Smyly.
It is obvious to me that Rick Porcello can be a top of the rotation type of guy. He has the wins to prove that he is getting close, but his age is showing that he still has much to learn. Many like to compare Rick to his teammate, Justin Verlander. Both were at one point, the Tigers’ top prospect, both are the same height and build, and both have similar pitches. If you want to make that comparison, that is fine, but here is what you should know.
Justin Verlander also went through his fair share of struggles, in his third season in the big leagues, and at the age of 25 (Two years older than what Porcello is now), Verlander struggled mightily. He had an ERA that was nearing five and he managed to lose 17 games. Many people questioned if Justin had what it took to be “The Guy’ that he currently is now. I think we all know at this point what happened, but it wasn’t until the age of 28 that Verlander had is break out season, now granted he did have other very impressive years, but it wasn’t until last year that Verlander really showed the rest of the league exactly what he was capable of.
Now take Porcello, is it fair that we judge him at such a young age? When the best pitcher in the game struggled more than what Porcello ever has, and he did so at an older age of what Porcello is now. My point is, Rick has won games every single year, and he still has more than enough time to take his game to the next level. As shown by Verlander, who is probably the best pitcher in the game, it wasn’t until his sixth full season that he discovered his full potential. Porcello is only in his fourth season, and he has been successful, and is now looking to become great.
As for now, Porcello will pitch in front of a national audience. Something that he is very accustom to.
James Nahikian blogs about the industry of sports. And specializes in articles about the Detroit Tigers, Major League Baseball and Bowling Green State University Athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org And follow him on twitter @KingNahikian or facebook where you can find links to his articles and updates about future