Porcello bounces back to pitch Tigers over Braves
APR 27, 2013 4:01p ET
DETROIT — If you want to play professional baseball, you have to be able to come back from failure.
A hitter can fail six out of 10 times and be considered excellent.
For pitchers, all that matters is winning the game. Whether you start it, pitch in the middle innings or close it out, as long as the team wins, you've been successful.
Two of the Tigers have dealt with comebacks this week on different levels.
Last Saturday Rick Porcello did not make it out of the first inning, allowing nine runs on nine hits while walking one against the Los Angeles Angels. His ERA more than doubled, going from 5.11 to 11.08.
This Saturday against the Atlanta Braves, Porcello put that completely out of his mind, allowing just three runs on five hits while walking two and striking out five in 6 1/3 innings in a 7-4 victory.
"I thought he did a terrific job today, coming back after the tough start that he had last time — pretty unlucky, obviously — to come back like that, against this club, national television, that’s a good day for him," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "And that should be a confidence-builder."
Porcello, who had a terrific spring (4-1, 3.00) after revamping his delivery, has been confident in his pitches, even in that Angels outing.
"The Anaheim game, honestly, I just had to wash it out of my memory," Porcello said. "Had some unfortunate things happen. Like I said in Anaheim, I still felt like my stuff was good. (Saturday) finally got some better results and we got a win."
The Braves could have shaken Porcello's confidence when they scored three runs in the third inning, which included two walks and some bloop hits.
But Porcello rebounded and retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced.
Although Porcello does not pitch like Anibal Sanchez, who struck out a team-record 17 Friday night, he did watch Sanchez's approach.
"You could definitely see the way he was throwing his off-speed stuff down in the zone," Porcello said. "A lot of those guys were just hunting fastballs and all those guys are really good fastball hitters and you gotta keep them off-balance with off-speed stuff and that was a big part of (Saturday)."
The Braves have hit 36 home runs already this season, including Justin Upton's solo shot off Joaquin Benoit in the eighth, compared with the Tigers' 15.
"If we can keep them in the ballpark, then we got a shot," Leyland said. "That’s why I thought
Ricky was a pretty good matchup, if he can keep the ball on the ground, and he did that for the most part."
The other comeback story this week is actually the far more dramatic one.
Former closer Jose Valverde, who had a disastrous playoffs last year, became the closer again this week after showing off his stuff in Lakeland.
After Valverde went 0-1 with a 30.37 ERA in the postseason, Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski told him that the team did not plan to re-sign him.
No other team made Valverde an offer this past offseason and the Tigers believed they would have rookie Bruce Rondon as their new closer.
Rondon, also called up this week, did not make the team out of spring training and the Tigers said they would mix and match relievers.
After the Tigers blew a few saves early in the season, they quietly signed Valverde to a minor-league deal. It didn't take long for them to call him up and name him their closer.
On Wednesday, Valverde's first night back, he got the save in a 1-2-3 inning without throwing his trademark split-finger pitch.
On Saturday, Valverde came out for the ninth again, this time with a three-run lead, and threw another 1-2-3 inning, striking out two for his second save. This outing, he did throw a couple of splitters.
"He threw a couple (Saturday), didn't need it last time," catcher Alex Avila said. "If he gets guys out, who cares? Just glad that his first two outings went as well as they have."
Torii Hunter remembers facing Valverde and believes he can help Rondon and the other young relievers.
"I'm pretty sure he's teaching a lot of the guys down there," Hunter said. "Just having his presence down there in the bullpen can help them figure out what's going on."
As for Leyland, he's happy to have Valverde back but doesn't plan to make too big a deal out of his comeback just yet.
"He’s done it before, and he’s not afraid," Leyland said. "Those are two big assets, and you can wipe off the slate right away. Yeah, I’ve got confidence in him, but I just don’t want to get crazy, and start making silly statements. Let’s just see how it plays out."