The return of Rick Porcello
MARCO ISLAND, Fla. - It wasn't just the media that hadn't seen or heard from Rick Porcello. It was virtually everyone in the baseball community.
That was evident by the reaction from some of Porcello's former teammates - such as Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt - at the David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic. And it wasn't just them. Those at the event - which raised more than $1.5 million for lifesaving heart surgeries for children - had the same sentiments.
Where had the 33-year-old been since he left the Mets after the 2020 season?
Appearing on the Bradfo Sho podcast, Porcello finally had some answers ... along with an official announcement.
"This is Rick Porcello," he said to the listeners of the podcast. "I want to tell all the listeners I’m retired. Thank you for all the great memories, and thanks for everything."
Porcello's final two seasons certainly weren't his best, landing with a 5.52 ERA in 32 starts with the Red Sox in 2019 and then a 5.64 ERA with the Mets in 12 starts during the Covid-shortened 2020 campaign.
But, still, this was a pitcher who had won an American League Cy Young Award in 2016, played a key role in the Red Sox' 2018 world championship run, and, perhaps most notably, was still in his early 30's.
So, what happened after that one year with the Mets?
"There was a lot of personal stuff I probably don’t want to get into, but I think the bottom line was that I was very fortunate to have the years I had in the big leagues," Porcello explained. "I think Covid lent some perspective on my life. I wanted to be with my family. I wanted to get back into that type of lifestyle and be around them because every year that you’re gone is another year where your parents are getting older, and your brothers are getting older. I think Covid impacts a lot of people like that.
"There was some interest but I had two horseshit years back to back so not that much interest."
Looking back at those final two seasons, Porcello does have a new perspective on where it might have gotten a bit off track.
"I think sometimes you look at the game. You look at what has been successful the last couple of years. The high spin rate, the four-seam fastballs have been very successful. The sharp breaking balls. The game goes through evolutions and cycles. I remember when I first got to the big leagues the cutter was the big pitch. Mariano, everyone looked at that. He dominated with one pitch and everyone started throwing a little cut fastball and the hitters caught up to that. It’s always changing. I’m sure that the sinker will come back and it already kind of already is. I think for some guys who have a really good one it will be effective because now it’s not a pitch hitters are seeing as much.
"I think maybe at times I was trying to change what was successful in the game and not sticking with and not sticking to what I was always successful with and maybe got lost a little bit there in my last year in Boston and was working on trying to get that back with the Mets and Covid hit and some other things changed for me," he said. "It’s always a constant evolution and hitters change their swings to start hitting certain pitches or pitches pitchers are being successful with. I don’t necessarily think it got away from what I can do successfully. I just didn’t do what I do best anymore."
So what did Porcello do after throwing that last pitch in 2020? He built a house.
Along with his brother, the New Jersey native constructed a vacation home on the Vermont property their parents had owned since 1988. This wasn't the multi-millionaire baseball player hiring somebody to do the job. This was a house constructed with the Porcello boys' own four hands.
"This isn't a (Dustin) Pedroia house," Porcello explained when trying to the size of the structure. "This would be like Pedroia's toolshed in the back." He added, "It was a humbling experience because it was pretty difficult, but it was a good time and it turned out well so hopefully it makes somebody happy living in it."
While in Vermont, Porcello also built something else - a rekindled appreciation for youth baseball. It became a passion that has led the former No. 1 pick to his next challenge.
"It has been enjoyable spending more time up there and I’m actually learning a bit more about the lack of resources for a lot of the young ballplayers up there," he said. "So I'm just trying to get involved in some of the Little League organizations and see if we can bridge the gap with some of the kids who don’t have the indoor facilities, or the fields, or the direction in training or anything like that that other kids have in other states. It’s been fun learning that and I really look forward to helping those kids out."