Henning: Tigers far in Porcello’s rearview mirror

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Rick Porcello

Detroit – Baseball cap turned backward on his head. Hands full of welcome-home goodies, including the baked variety, which had been left with a clubhouse guard ahead of Rick Porcello’s reunion with Comerica Park.

And red eyes to match the Red Sox logo Rick Porcello now sports on his big-league uniform.

“Ridiculous,” said Porcello, the ex-Tigers star who now pitches for Boston and who is pitching extremely well (16-3, 3.30 ERA), as he strolled to work and into the visitor’s quarters Thursday morning, seven hours after the Red Sox had checked into their downtown Detroit hotel.

Porcello was dealing with a big-league travel burden of extreme distaste. The Red Sox played Wednesday night at Baltimore and were obliged to play at 1:10 p.m. Thursday in the first of a four-game series against the Tigers at Comerica Park.

“No anger,” said Porcello, excusing the Tigers from any player ire over Thursday’s game time, which the Tigers wouldn’t change. “I don’t put blame on the team. I just don’t think scheduling like this should be allowed.

“You’re talking about players’ health.”

Porcello has, appropriately, and probably necessarily, placed Detroit in his past. He works elsewhere. The Red Sox have their own fixations, beginning with a playoff chase.

Ausmus on Red Sox’s travel: 'The baseball schedule is hard'

He returns to Detroit and what can he afford to feel?

“I think a lot of that for me I was done with last year,” he said, speaking of sentiment he might have felt for his first big-league home. “I faced them (Tigers) in Boston. I think that kind of wrapped it up for me.”

It has been nine years since the Tigers drafted Porcello, seven since he was moved into Detroit’s starting rotation. He was all of 20.

He worked 1,073 innings for the Tigers. He was all but a stranger to the disabled list. His innings ranged from 162 to 204. Porcello was reliable. And, often times, very good.

He had his rough stretches and he tended to allow his share of hits (1,196 in those 1,073 innings). But there was a reason the Red Sox hunted him hard and offered a slugger of Yoenis Cespedes’ elevation when they were looking for an innings-eating right-hander who was also evolving in skills and force.

Tigers nearly signed Alex Presley in offseason

The Red Sox signed him to a four-year, $82-million contract. Now they have a man, only 28, throwing beautifully, with that impressive WHIP (1.05) built upon some lovely secondary numbers: 158 innings, 140 hits, 129 strikeouts, 26 walks. His strikeout-to-walk ratio: 7.3 to 1.55.

It’s the brand of pitching any contender views as gold.

“Just executing pitches,” Porcello said, speaking of differences from a year ago, when he was 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA.

Porcello otherwise hasn’t changed from his Tigers days. He’s cordial but the definition of low-key. He still has his fly-fishing passion. He always will.

“Hot summer,” he said, critiquing his 2016 trout and Atlantic salmon forays in New England, where fishing has been particularly tough because low water has been too warm and has driven fish elsewhere. “Too little rain.”

Porcello dumped his carry-in items in a locker and headed for a meeting. He had gotten maybe five or six hours of sleep.

“About that,” he said, not complaining, not when life is good, for him and, travel schedules aside, for his current employer, the Red Sox.

Twitter @Lynn_Henning