Friday, 1 July 2011

Detroit Tigers' Rick Porcello: It's time to mix it up, throw more secondary pitches

rick-porcello-29.jpgAP PhotoDetroit's Rick Porcello gave up 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings Tuesday.DETROIT -- What is ailing Detroit Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello?

Even he doesn’t quite know -- but he’s come up with two hypotheses.

First, Porcello -- who gave up seven runs and 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings Tuesday -- said he thinks he hasn’t thrown his secondary pitches enough.

He’s confident throwing his changeup and slider, and said they still are getting out hitters as his fastball betrays him.

"I feel good about the slider, change, those haven’t been hit hard," the third-year pitcher said. "Maybe it’s time to start using them more."

More to the point, Porcello said he thinks he has become too predictable.

"When hitters are comfortable up there and feel confident, I think maybe we need to mix it up a little bit and put some doubt in their minds," Porcello said.

Second, Porcello said his fastball -- which typically has good downward bite and induces ground-ball outs -- needs to be located better.

"I looked at the game a lot (on film), and it doesn’t look like the fastball is sinking any less," Porcello said. "I think it’s just a matter of locating, and that’s the bottom line."

That, of course, is the good news. Porcello’s stuff is strong, even if he has given up at least five runs in fewer than five innings in each of his past three starts -- a span that has inflated his ERA to 5.06 and dropped his record to 6-6.

He was 6-3 with a 3.58 ERA on June 7.

One possible explanation for why Porcello was hit so hard Tuesday -- when he yielded five consecutive hits, including a homer and triple, before being lifted in the fourth -- is that he is tipping his pitches.

But, after watching extensive film by himself and with coaches, no one could find any indication he was doing so.

"I’ve watched the game a lot, and the coaches watched it a bunch, and we didn’t see anything that (hitters would) be able to pick up," Porcello said.

That is promising news for a pitcher who, despite being in his third year, still is only 22 years old.

In talking about his struggles, the ever-steely, ever-composed right-hander who has been mature beyond his years since he first put on a Tigers uniform finally showed some signs of vulnerability.

"One second you’re going good, and a couple outings later, you’re in a hole, and that’s tough to deal with," Porcello said dourly before Wednesday’s game against the Mets.

"But that’s the way it is. I’ll battle through."?

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