We often hear of the sophomore slump in baseball and Rick Porcello was mired in a doozy.
As a result, he’s going to Toledo. Surprised? I’m not. This move is long over due for a pitcher with such tremendous skill — and a long runway, i.e., youth. In fact, I was surprised that the Tigers opted for the skipped-start approach last week rather than send Porcello to the Mud Hens.
By now, you’ve probably read the club’s rationale, articulated by GM Dave Dombrowski:
If you think about it, isn’t this what we expected (feared?) of Porcello last season? A 20-year-old making the big club two years out of high school was supposed to be shell-shocked, intimidated by major-league hitters and returned to Double-A for seasoning.
“We think it’s the best thing for him,” Dombrowski said. “Our goals are such to get him back to be the pitcher that we know he can be — get his sinker going, get his slider improved. We saw some improvement yesterday, but not to the point we’d like it to be.”
Except he wasn’t any of those things, at least not visibly. And if we were afraid he’d be spooked, I think Kevin Youkilis can attest Porcello’s not afraid of anything or anyone.
I for one thought he’d build on his 2009 success and be as good if not better this season. That’s what makes this season — and the craft of pitching — such a puzzler.
Now the question is: how many starts does Porcello need in Toledo to correct his issues? Will it be a Max Scherzer-like quick turnaround or an extended stay?
Based on what we know of Porcello, his drive and competitiveness, he’ll want to attack the issue head-on when he gets to Fifth Third Field. But I think the Tigers will apply the brakes and tell the prodigy to take his time, get it right now matter how long it takes and come back to stay.
Because if you’ve seen any of Porcello’s recent starts, you’ve witnessed the rockets launched by hitters and probably were thinking what Dan Dickerson said during Porcello’s start agains the White Sox on June 9: “He’s not fooling anyone.”
The Tigers appear to be in the division race to stay in 2010. That’s why they couldn’t afford to send Porcello out there every five days — not the way he was pitching.
He’ll be back. And chances are, he’ll be back in fine form.