Did Porcello make the team?

Lynn Henning has been writing about Rick Porcello daily, basically imploring Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski to take him north. In fact it’s the only story he’s been writing about. (although I haven’t written about much either so I’m not really ragging on him for this). Well in this afternoon’s piece Henning says:

Fans are nervous. Fans are excited. Rick Porcello is coming to town, as near as we can tell today, as part of Tigers manager Jim Leyland’s rotation.

Is this Henning speculation or fact? I have to believe it’s more the former than the latter. Porcello is clearly outperforming Robertson/Willis/Miner and is healthier than Bonderman. And if the season started next week I think the Tigers would take Porcello over the other options. But last I looked it’s March 13th and the season doesn’t start until April.

Why would the Tigers make this decision now? With Robertson and Willis on multi-year contracts there is no money to save by ending the competition now. Both will have several more chances to earn a spot and Porcello will have several more chances to demonstrate his readiness. It all seems premature.

Add in the fact that there is no Leyland quote about this and the other beats don’t make mention of it, and I think this is an informed guess as opposed to breaking news.

In other rotation-y news though, Jason Beck notes that the rotation order is lining up for the regular season with Justin Verlander starting on Opening Day (no surprise) and Edwin Jackson pitching game 2. And Jon Paul Morosi notes that there is no more slack remaining in Jeremy Bonderman’s schedule if he’s going to be ready for the first week. Most years the Tigers could get by with four starters the first week or two, but with the team playing 10 straight days there is no flexibility.


  1. rings

    March 13, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Henning is famous for his slant on certain players, whether grounded in reality or not.
    Given Ilitch’s desire to win and his age, however – along with his willingness to spend money last year – I wonder if he’s given permission to eat a few contracts if necessary to put the best possible team on the field?
    What are the odds that Nate/Willis/Sheffield/Inge finish the season in the D if they don’t rebound or perform?

  2. Kathy

    March 13, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Who knows? Now Zoom won’t be pitching Saturday as planned because his shoulder hurts. If we come out of the gate last, look for a BIG sale.

  3. Andre in Chi

    March 13, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Noting that there’s still a significant amount of time for reversals in spring training:

    After hearing that the Tigers plan on Porcello pitching ~150 innings @ 100 pitch counts per game, regardless of major / minor league levels, I’m more comfortable with him starting the season with the Tigers (which I’m sure is a load of Leyland’s back).

    Robertson looks as likely to pitch himself out of the rotation as off the team, Bonderman’s future is still up in the air for at least the next few days, and Willis, while not having “lost” the competition for a starting slot, certainly hasn’t “won” one either.

    Speaking of reversals, Jackson is looking less like someone vying for the #2 spot and more like fighting Miner for the #5 spot after his last start. [note: see what small sample sizes can do to impressions?]

    This spring training is trickier than others I think. Its hard to tell where some of the pitchers are at. Are their struggles are inflated (or caused) by the nature of spring training (see above note), or if they are still struggling from their respective ’08 afflictions? While there are certainly some truly awful numbers in the bunch, I don’t think you can say that any of the starter candidates but Porcello has impressed in these pre-season starts, defacto #1 Verlander included.

    Side note: when does Verlander not feel like he didn’t have “good stuff”? You would never know from the boxscores, that’s for sure. You can almost bet your house that a bad outing from Verlander will lead to a quote from him containing one of the following: “i was trying out ______” or “i was adjusting______”. Seriously, somebody take me up on this, we can bet fantasy-beers on it.

    Also, thought this was interesting quote:

    “Last year the Tigers won 74 games but scored/allowed runs like a 78-win team. It’s not much of a leap from 78 to 81, and in the AL Central it’s just a slightly larger leap from 81 to contention.”


  4. Chris Y.

    March 13, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Uh, I’m not sure I like Jackson in that #2 hole. Now, I don’t think his rough outing today is an kind of indicator, it is March 13 after all. But, if healthy, Bonderman should be slotted either 2 or 3. And what about Galarraga? At least he was on this team last year, and his numbers were generally better than Jackson’s last year. That puts Jack-Jack at 3 or 4, at best.

    It might be quibbling, but handing him the #2 slot may put the team at a disadvantage head-to-head, and it anoints a position to a guy who I think still has a ton to prove.

    As a side note, anyone see the WBC start for Galarraga? I thought he looked pretty good, given the time of the year. His pitches were under control for the most part, and had a ton of life to them. It sure made be less worried about a drop off from Armando.

  5. stephen

    March 13, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Interesting piece on Tigers’ prospect from ESPN. The sad thing is how Willis is barely an afterthought in terms of the team’s chances.

  6. billfer

    March 13, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Don’t worry too much about Jackson pitching 2nd. the rotations get all out of whack due to off days and rain outs and soreness and everything else. The bigger thing in play is that the Tigers 5th game is the home opener. Not exactly the spot where you want your 5th starter (especially if it’s Porcello). Beck speculated Galarraga could get that start. Plus Bonderman’s status is still in question.

    As far as Jackson today, he was perfect for 3 innings, so that’s a little something.

    And Andre, you’re right about Verlander. He always feels good about how he threw the ball.

  7. Andre in Chi

    March 14, 2009 at 12:40 am

    thanks billfer,

    for the record though, i did follow j-beck’s twitter on the game (yesterday) against the Mets. Jackson did appear to be lights out for the majority of his start, i think the larger point i was trying to make is the way that certain pitchers are viewed (justly or not) in light of reputations. this is of course natural, but it is interesting that certain spring training performances are taken as signs of continuing struggles for some (Willis, Robertson, Miner), but to some degree written off in the cases of others (Verlander, Jackson). its ok to struggle as long as you can explain it (i’m making adjustments). to me its becoming more and more interesting that Porcello is the one that keeps making “progress” while most of the other starters are, at best, inconsistent so far this spring.

    i do still think its a little soon to tell with some of the pitchers, but Bonderman’s situation still seems to have the most potential effect on what opening day’s pitching rotation looks like. that last sentence, by the way, is yet another candidate for most obvious statement of spring training.

  8. Chris Y.

    March 14, 2009 at 7:38 am

    I agree, sooner or later, the rotations will get all out of whack between teams. That said, order must mean something, right? For instance, why do teams always line up their rotations in (perceived) order of talent/experience? Just natural, right? But, why not put Verlander at #5 so he can pitch the home opener? And why, given off days or other opportunities, are rotations shuffled to favor upcoming match-ups? This second point is tricky because it is often done at times done to maintain rest schedules or give extra rest, but I seem to remember quite a few times where rest had nothing to do with it. Third, there certainly has to be some effect on a pitcher’s ego about being slotted 1-5 (given all the talk media and fans give to the order).

  9. Rick G

    March 14, 2009 at 8:50 am

    You order your rotation in order of talent for the same reason you set your batting order – to get your best players as many opportunities to perform as possible. Why would you have your best pitcher wait until game 5 to make his first start when he could start game 1 and game 6? Is winning the home opener that important?

    Managers probably do rotation shuffling most of the time because a pitcher may have a good history pitching against a certain team or in a certain ballpark, or to give extra rest to another pitcher who may be wearing down.

    Of course, the perceived talent order doesn’t always play out over the course of a season, but in general teams usually know who their best starters are and try to ride them as much as possible.

  10. big max

    March 14, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Did not realize that if Porcello is the #5 he starts the home opener.

    Here, son. No pressure.

  11. Eric Cioe

    March 14, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Galarraga or Bonderman should probably start the home opener, even if Porcello is on the staff. Porcello should probably start the last game in Toronto if he’s on the team.

  12. Kurt

    March 14, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I suspect Leyland wouldn’t put Porcello in the position of pitching the home opener. He’d probably end up No. 4.

  13. Anaaki

    March 14, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Henning’s been driving me crazy. I’ve had three people tell me already that Porcello was added to the rotation and when I told them to give me the facts they send me to Henning’s articles.

    But at least you cleared up for me that Lynn Henning is a “he.” My bad!

    More so than pitch count, I’m more worried about Porcello’s confidence and attitude once he gets hit by some major leaguers. I don’t want him psyching himself out of his ability to pitch because we brought him up too early. Of course he’s been confident and poised up ’til now! He’s not facing the best line ups. Even going up theWhiteSox line up, I think is pretty scary. But talking to a friend today, we’ve agreed that if they’re going to go ahead and bring Porcello up, might as well bring up Perry.

    At least Nate pitched better today. Hopefully it’s a sign of good things.

  14. Andre in Chi

    March 14, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Just a quick word on the predictive ability of spring training:

    2008 Spring Training

    Robertson (9 IP) 6 H / 0 BB / 9 K / 1 ER / 1 ERA
    Galarraga (6.2 IP) 6 H / 7 BB / 6 K / 5 ER / 6.75 ERA

    2009 Spring Training

    (9.1 IP) 9 H / 9 BB / 5 K / 6 ER / 5.79 ERA

    Who’s the mystery pitcher? That’s staff ace, Justin Verlander…who’s walking guys at the same rate as Willis. But we shouldn’t worry about Verlander, he was just working on a couple things, and thought he threw pretty well actually 🙂

    Don’t worry too much about spring training numbers, sometimes they don’t predict the season well at all.

    (I pulled the numbers from http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/.....;year=2009)

  15. Adam

    March 15, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    Even if Porcello might not be a permanent option, why not bring him North as a spot starter in case whoever does get to be the fifth starter should get into trouble? Is there room?

  16. billfer

    March 15, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    He needs to be pitching regularly somewhere. If they need him as a spot starter they can call him up then and send him right back down.