Frederick Alfred Porcello III, former first-round draft pick of the Tigers, 14-game winner in the big leagues at the age of 20, Cy Young Award winner and a reliable postseason pitcher with the Red Sox, deserves a better ending to his five-year stay in Boston than the one that’s unfolding.
In many ways, Porcello is as good a symbol of the 2019 Red Sox as anyone on the roster. Championship pedigree. Paid handsomely in accordance with past accomplishments. Impressive back of the baseball card. In the midst of a rough season that doesn’t appear to be heading anywhere good with a fourth of it remaining.
An encouraging start here and there but too often followed by a discouraging one.
In the last year of a contract that has payed him $21 million per season, Porcello likely will be pitching elsewhere next season. The Red Sox need the money he makes to go toward inevitable and in some cases already negotiated raises for others on the roster.
Porcello consistently has sent gratitude the way of a Red Sox offense that has given him big run support all year. The support wasn’t there Saturday at Fenway Park, so Porcello needed to be as sharp against the Angels as he had been in his previous start against the Royals. He fell far short of that.
Justin Upton touched him with a Pesky Pole pop for a three-run home run in the first and Mike Trout sent him to the showers with a two-run shot over the Green Monster and onto Landsdowne Street with nobody out in the sixth, propelling the Angels to a 12-4 victory over a Red Sox squad that stands at five games over .500.
Porcello has allowed five earned runs or more in six of his past nine starts, posting a 5-3 record in 8.29 ERA over that stretch.
Among pitchers in the major leagues with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, only Aaron Sanchez (5.76 going into Saturday’s start vs. Baltimore), dealt from the Blue Jays to the Astros at the trading deadline, had a higher ERA than the 5.67 mark Porcello (10-9) took out of Saturday’s start. He has allowed at least one home run in each of his past eight starts.
A pro’s pro forever in search of the edge, Porcello commands respect from teammates and management alike, so when he’s hit hard, everybody feels it.
“It’s very hard,” Cora said. “We have daily conversations. I know how hard he works.”
It was a strangely all-or-nothing start for Porcello, who retired 14 batters in a row between his troubles in the first and sixth innings.
The home run ball has been his downfall, and he has plenty of company in that regard, given that the era of enhanced hitters seems to have resurfaced. The 25 home runs Porcello has allowed in 133⅓ innings is a staff-high total.
“Pitches that are not well executed,” Porcello said of the homers. “That’s the biggest thing. Everybody’s hitting home runs and you have to be precise pitching with everything you throw.”
Hard work has been the road to recovery from other rough patches in his career, so he’s not going to veer from that path.
“Keep making adjustments and keep grinding,” Porcello said. “Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you, so go out there and keep fighting. … As bad as it is right now, you can go out there five days from now, shut ’em down and get back in a good spot.”
A strong finish to the season isn’t likely to extend Porcello’s career, not that there is a replacement for him ready for a step up from the minor leagues. Filling Porcello’s spot in the rotation will be one of the many interesting challenges this coming offseason facing either general manager Dave Dombrowski or a replacement to be named later.
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