Let me open by saying if you say Rick Porcello sucks you’re an idiot and don’t know a damn thing about baseball. Call 2016 a fluke all you want, but Porcello is a top-tier major league starter with a Cy Young Award to back that up and 2018 will be the second installing of his redemption tour.
“Feel great. Body is ready to go, just been working on executing the fastball right now and getting comfortable with the delivery,” Porcello told the assembled media on Wednesday following his first bullpen of the spring at jetBlue Park.
The 29-year-old right-hander is entering his fourth season with the Red Sox and has a fresh new look, a sharp chiseled beard looking more like a member of the 2013 Sox than that of previous years. After going 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA and the ALCy Young Award, Boston added another perennial act Young contender in Chris Sale to the cast that already included another former winner in David Price and everyone knew the 2017 Sox rotation was not one to be taken lightly.
Long story short, Porcello found himself leaving the fastball up far too often, Price missed substantial time with an elbow injury and Chris Sale didn’t have the same spark late in the year as the pitches and innings piled up. Boston was sent home after just four postseason games to the eventual World Series champs in the Houston Astros and John Farrell was given his pink slip.
The last time Porcello was on the mound at Fenway he was departing after a grueling three innings of work in Game 4 of the ALDS. He battled it out and kept Boston alive, until Chris Sale was left in too long, then Craig Kimbrel cracked and the Red Sox were sent on a winter vacation. Now, Porcello and this entire Red Sox team enter 2018 with almost an entirely different coaching staff and a new skipper in Alex Cora at the helm.
Porcello will have to move beyond his 11-17 record and 4.65 ERA in ’17 and not dwell on the past. Focus on executing each pitch and give his team the chance to win each time he toes the rubber. Pound the bottom of the zone with that filthy two-seam fastball, command the breaking ball and changeup while relying on his defense to get the put out. Porcello is capable of greatness, and embraces the pressure of playing in Boston.
“I’m one of the few guys that gets to play at Fenway Park in front of a packed house every night. If you’re a competitive guy and you want to play at the highest level and play under the brightest lights, then this is the place to do it. Put the pedal to the medal the entire year,” Porcello added on Wednesday.
Baseball is back in the air, baby. Boy am I excited for spring training and the exhibition games soon to follow. The sound of the catchers mitts thudding during bullpens by Porcello and Price got all the juices flowing for me, and hopefully for all reading this as well. Baseball is back, and Rick Porcello is about to silence his critics once more in 2018.
Follow Frank Pimentel on Twitter: @FrankBostonTank