Rick Porcello's second start in Triple-A Toledo looked pretty ugly, as he allowed five runs, 10 hits, and three walks in six innings. (He also struck out just three batters, which is kind of a perennial concern among those who think Porcello should get more strikeouts.)
But is it more important for Porcello to work on certain pitches while he's in the minors? After Kid Rick looked fantastic in his Mud Hens debut, giving up just one hit over eight innings, I wondered how long the Tigers would keep him in Triple-A. Is it possible that he could pitch quite well, in terms of results, yet not make the progress the Tigers wanted to see from him?
Porcello's start on Tuesday night raises such questions. Because even though he got shelled, judging from the boxscore, he was apparently under orders to throw sliders, a whole lot of sliders. Coming up with a third pitch to go along with his four-seam and two-seam fastballs is one of the things Porcello is presumably supposed to work on (as well as getting better movement on that sinking two-seamer).
Something else the Tigers are concerned with, according to Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish, is Porcello establishing a consistent pace on the mound.
"One of the things we had heard was the tempo problem," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "Sometimes he gets to going too fast or he's starting slow and then speeds up in the middle of it. To me, that's sort of your timing as a pitcher. You've got to gather yourself and have everything ready, loaded, before you go to the plate, for your arm to get in the position you want it to get in consistently so the pitch reacts the same way every time you throw it."
And judging from what he told reporters after Tuesday's game, Porcello sounds pretty confused about how he should approach hitters right now.
"My breaking ball was pretty good today," Porcello told reporters. "I didn't give up any hits on my breaking ball. The guys I was trying to get ahead of with the fastball were jumping on the fastball and getting hits. I can't start everybody off with a breaking ball, so maybe I need to start guys off with the four-seamers away, then come back with breaking balls or the sinker."I'm still trying to figure things out myself; that's why I'm down here. It's frustrating. The bottom line is that there's a lot of stuff I need to figure out down here."