BOSTON (CBS) — Even before he threw a pitch for his new team, Rick Porcello had a nice new contract from the Boston Red Sox.
He said he didn’t want to discuss a contract during the season, but Porcello and his new employers agreed to a four-year, $82.5 million extension that will keep him from hitting the free agent market next winter. With the deal, Porcello becomes the highest paid pitcher in Red Sox history.
So no pressure heading into his Boston debut on Wednesday, right?
“My focus is on this team and winning. That’s the bottom line,” said Porcello, who goes in the middle game of Boston’s three-game set against the Phillies in Philadelphia. “I’m here to win. That’s the bottom line.”
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With that new contract putting wads of cash into his pocket, winning will be expected from the 26-year-old right hander. Those expectations were already high when Boston acquired Porcello from Detroit for outfielder Yoenis Cedpedes over the winter, and could hit a new stratosphere with the pitcher now making upwards of $20 million per season.
But given all they have seen out of him this spring (he led all Red Sox starters with a 2.57 ERA), manager John Farrell sounds very confident that Porcello can mold into a front of the rotation pitcher.
“I think if you look at the year-to-year performance and the numbers, it shows that there is maturity as a pitcher. He has somewhat changed his style from when he came to the big leagues as a 20-year-old to where he is now. Hopefully we’re able to capitalize on the experience and knowledge he has gained along the way,” said Farrell. “We’re looking at a guy who is in the perfect spot of his career in regards to time, experience, age and health. We’re looking for a lot of good things out of Rick.”
Porcello is coming off a successful 2014 campaign in which he set new career bests with 15 wins, a 3.43 ERA and 204.2 innings pitched. He’s never been known as a strikeout pitcher (averaging just 5.49 K’s per nine innings for his six-year career), so there is some concern that Porcello isn’t the “power pitcher” that teams have been shelling out the big bucks for in recent years.
But with Porcello armed with a sinking two-seam fastball to compliment a four-seamed fastball, and a circle change and curve mixing things up, Farrell thinks he has an arsenal for success.
“There is a four-pitch mix that he has the ability to go to at any time,” he said. “There are weapons to attack different types of hitters, and the capability of getting a strikeout in key moments as well.”
Porcello said he had an easy transition with the Red Sox this spring, and has developed a good relationship with catcher Ryan Hanigan. While there will certainly be pressure coming to a new team, and now some added pressure given his new contract, Porcello is simply focused on taking care of business on the mound.
“For me, it’s the same game and my goals are the same. I want to go out and be consistent and pitch well,” he said. “I felt good and felt like I developed a good foundation. But anything can happen in the season, so you want to go out there and consistently pitch deep into games. It’s not rocket science, just go out there and give them a solid start every fifth day.”