Tigers starter Rick Porcello feels he has excellent command of his pitches as evidenced in his latest outing Friday against the Blue Jays. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)
Lakeland, Fla. — For whatever role that awaits him — starting for the Tigers, relief for the Tigers, or pitching elsewhere if there's a trade — Rick Porcello has prepared himself well this spring
Speaking after an effective five-inning stint on Friday in the Tigers' 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, Porcello said, "I'm pretty close, if not ready (for the season)."
All that's left, it appears, is some fine-tuning — just a few final tweaks in the next two weeks to what he has described as a return to basics this spring.
From the outset, he's thrown well.
From his first appearance on, his control has been excellent.
In five starts, Porcello has not allowed a walk.
"There are a couple of things I have to keep working on, but I'm definitely getting there," he said after allowing two runs on four hits while striking out four.
Of what's pleased him the most, Porcello said it's been "the adjustments I've been able to make in games — from pitch to pitch.
"My mechanics are a lot more sound than they've been in years past."
With more trust in his mechanics has come additional confidence.
"It's taken me a couple of years to get back to throwing the ball the way I know how to throw it," he said. "I started from scratch this offseason and focused on the simple things you have to do in order to throw strikes and stay down in the zone."
Once in a while, as happens to all pitchers, a pitch has strayed away or stayed up — which explains the hanger that Toronto's Andy LaRoche drove deep to left off Porcello on a 1-2 pitch in the second inning — but for the most part he's accomplishing what he has set out to do.
'He's in a good groove," said manager Jim Leyland. "You can tell he's worked on his breaking ball, because it's a lot better."
Porcello hasn't worked only on his breaking ball. He disassembled his delivery, then pieced it back together again — hoping that in the process, he'd get all the annoying rattles out of it
He said he returned to "the basics of my delivery, like starting from scratch — working on simple, simple things, almost as if I've never pitched before."
In doing that, Porcello attempted to rebuild his "foundation as a pitcher and who you are as a pitcher."
Had he gotten away from that foundation?
"It wasn't that every time out I was out of whack," he said, "but the consistency just wasn't there."
This spring it has been.
"He's been consistent with his delivery and consistent with his release point," Leyland said.
Does that mean Leyland sees a pitcher who has effectively returned to the so-called basics of pitching?
"I would say so," the manager said. "I think he's done a very good job of that this spring."
Unlike Porcello feeling he's "definitely getting there," however, Leyland reiterated how tough of a process it will be to get down to a 25-man roster in the next two weeks.
"Managers know they're going to break a couple of hearts before this is over," Leyland said. "But through it all, you also know that you'll be packing up and getting out of here.
"That's just the way you have to approach it. You never get used to it."