When the Tigers opted to send talented young right-hander Rick Porcello to the Minor Leagues on June 20, general manager Dave Dombrowski didn't give a timetable for his return. He simply stated that, for the long-term betterment of Porcello's career, the 21-year-old "needed to get away from here."
Based on the results of his first start back, Dombrowski was right on. And Porcello, who will make his second start since his Minor League demotion against the Blue Jays on Saturday, agrees.
"Early on in the season, I wasn't in a good mindset," said Porcello, who will oppose Shaun Marcum at Comerica Park after Friday night's game was postponed due to rain. "Especially in a couple games, I got hit around, and I started putting too much pressure on myself. It was almost like I was telling myself to try harder and all that stuff, and do better. But a lot of times, with pitching, it kind of takes the opposite effect. So I think going down to [Triple-A] Toledo ... allowed me to be able to kind of smooth out my mechanics and iron out my delivery."
Porcello, who finished third in the voting for American League Rookie of the Year last season, had a dreadful 6.14 ERA and had allowed an opponents' batting average of .324 by the time his 13th start of the season finished up on June 19. But after four starts in the Minors -- where he posted a 3.21 ERA -- Porcello came back and had his best start of the season against the Indians last Saturday, giving up just one run in eight innings while walking none and striking out six in the second game of a doubleheader.
"This year's obviously been a rough one for me," Porcello admitted. "For me, it's been the first one athletically that I've really struggled, ever, in any sport. It's something that's new for me to deal with. Now that I'm dealing with it and I'm trying to overcome that, I think it'll help me in the future [to] limit these types of things. There's always going to be rough patches here and there, but now that I kind of know how to deal with it and I've already been through it, hopefully in the future I'll be able to kind of limit the amount of struggles so that it doesn't linger for a month, two months."
The Tigers have countered a season-high seven-game losing streak with back-to-back victories, the last of which was a 5-2 win over the homer-happy Blue Jays on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Porcello seems to have figured it out since his demotion. But one Major League start is a very small sample size, and Porcello isn't ready to consent to anything.
"I'll never say that I've overcome it and I'm back to everything, because I think it would be kind of a sense of complacency," he said. "I just want to keep after it and keep working hard."
As for Porcello's Saturday opponent, there was a chance earlier this week that Marcum, who came off his disabled-list stint on Sunday, would be pushed back because of a blister in his right middle finger. But Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said: "If it flares up when he gets out there, it's a different ballgame. Right now, he's scheduled to go."
Blue Jays: Home runs part of the culture
No team has cranked balls out of the park this season like the Blue Jays, who easily lead the Majors in home runs with 143. And though that's just part of who they are as an offense, Gaston would also like to see a bit more variety (even though Toronto has hit at least one double in 13 consecutive games). "We have a club that hits home runs," said Gaston, whose team is 4-3 since the All-Star break. "It hasn't been any different since day one. I think the ballgame over in Kansas City where we scored a lot of runs, we still hit a couple home runs, but we still had a couple doubles and singles. That's something we haven't done in a while." ... The Blue Jays kept outfielder Fred Lewis out of the starting lineup on Thursday, after he left Wednesday's game early with a sore right ankle. He's still day to day. ... Toronto called up utility man Mike McCoy and optioned starter Marc Rzepczynski to Triple-A Las Vegas on Thursday.
Tigers: Perfect 20 for Valverde
After blowing his first save opportunity in a Tigers uniform, Jose Valverde has converted 20 in a row, with his last one coming during Thursday's win against Toronto. The 32-year-old right-hander, whose ERA is now 1.27, has also held opponents scoreless in 38 of his 43 outings. ... The Tigers are 9-2 against the AL East this season, including Thursday's win over Toronto. Their next 10 games will be against AL East teams, including next week's road trip to Tampa Bay and Boston. ... Gerald Laird is batting .340 (32-for-94) lifetime against the Blue Jays with six doubles, three homers and 17 RBIs. He's expected to get his third consecutive start Saturday with Toronto after working well with Porcello last Saturday at Cleveland.
With Friday night's game postponed due to rain, the two teams will play a doubleheader Sunday, with the afternoon game scheduled to start at 1:05 p.m. and the makeup game slated for 6:05 p.m. ... Magglio Ordonez was scheduled to be the designated hitter Friday night for the third time in four days as he deals with a sore right ankle. Manager Jim Leyland said Friday afternoon that he'll keep Ordonez in the DH slot until Ordonez says he feels good enough to play in right field again. ... Tigers prospect left-hander Charlie Furbush, 24, was promoted from Double-A Erie to Triple-A Toledo. It's his second promotion in as many months. ... Austin Jackson's 106 hits this season are already the most by a Tigers rookie since Milt Cuyler notched 122 in 1991.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.