This is why Red Sox should listen to Rick Porcello


MINNEAPOLIS -- It would be easy to scream from the top of Target Field that Rick Porcello deserves a new contract after what we witnessed Monday night.

The starter was dominant against Major League Baseball's most effective lineup, tossing seven shutout innings while leading the Red Sox' to a 2-0 win over the juggernaut Twins.

But this was just a snippet as to why Porcello should have been and should be considered for a contract extension.

Remember, Porcello told the day before the start of this season that he tried to get the Red Sox interested in committing to a deal that stretches beyond 2019. This is what he said:

"Myself and my agent (Jim Murray) -- my agent was handling it -- he approached them and expressed my desire to continue to want to play here. We expressed our willingness to take a discount to make that work. Conceptionally there were talks about it but as the spring went on economically they didn’t feel like it was going to fit. It pretty much kind of fizzled out and there were really no further talks beyond that. That’s pretty much it."

No offer was made by the Red Sox, who decided to prioritize the contract extensions of Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts and once the season started made it clear that negotiations with the likes of Porcello really wasn't an option. The player, on the other hand, has always been leaving the door open.

"Yeah. It’s how badly I want to play here," the 30-year-old said back in March when asked if he would talk contract during the season. "I don’t think it would be a distraction for me. I would be more than willing and open to continue to talk if there is any interest from the Red Sox end going forward. But it’s pretty much up to them at this point.
"I’ve been here for four years now, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve really enjoyed playing for and representing this organization and this city. It’s kind of where my heart is. It doesn’t always work out like that to be able to continue to live it out or follow through. That part, at this point, is a little disappointing. Just keep on trucking and see where it ends up."

So here we are.

The pitcher the Red Sox prioritized in the offseason with a four-year, $69 million contract, Nathan Eovaldi, has once again been a victim of physical ailments. His stuff and potential is undeniably more intriguing than what Porcello offers, hence the team's willingness to allocate the money toward the fireballer. But days like the one against the Twins should remind the Red Sox they might want to take a second look at the former Cy Young winner.

He shows up. He competes. He adjusts. And he leads.

After a horrific start this season Porcello has found himself settled into the exact pitcher we witnessed a year ago, sitting with a 4.31 ERA in his 15 starts, during which the Red Sox carry a 9-6 mark. And how he has managed to bob and weave his way to the recent success should also be noted, using gameplans and good enough stuff to prove his worth as a pitcher.

This time it was his four-seamer, that popped Sandy Leon's mitt better than any other time this season which was exactly what the doctored ordered against the majors' top lineup.

"It’s what I have to do," said Porcello of his ability to remain unpredictable. "I don’t throw 98 (mph). I don’t throw that wipeout slider that’s almost automatic sometimes for guys. That’s what we’ve got to do, for me and Sandy and Vazqy, when we’re attacking lineups, we’ve got to be able to execute pitches and hit corners and change speeds and be precise because I’m not featuring overpowering stuff that other starters are featuring and that’s how I pitch."

"He did his homework, he always does," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "You look at teams that have pitched a lot against these guys, look for tendencies and certain things. Like I have been saying all along it’s different every five days. Today it was the four-seamer. Other nights it’s the sinker and the curveball and the changeup and all that. I’m just glad he was on the mound today. We needed him to not only go seven but to dominate for seven."

And then there is Porcello's presence in the clubhouse.

Much like J.D. Martinez's influence on some of the Red Sox' younger hitters, Porcello's leadership in that room should absolutely be valued by the organization. He's not alone in setting the tone for the defending world champs, but if you were to pick the most powerful voices on the team he would be atop the list.

"He’s been great," Cora said. "He didn’t have a good start to the season but he kept working on his craft and making adjustments. Those three guys, they mean a lot to me in the clubhouse. David (Price), Chris (Sale) and Rick. Whenever I have a message or whatever they’re the ones that are always in the office and we talk about it and they take care of that stuff in there. In their own way, too. They’re very different. He’s been great. He’s a guy I got to meet, he flew with me to Puerto Rico the first time we went down there with the supplies and we connected right away. He’s been amazing for us."

The Red Sox thinking heading into the season was certainly that Porcello's price tag was going to get cheaper and cheaper due to baseball's new world of free agency, along with the diminishing desire to lock up sinkerballers. And since Eduardo Rodriguez, Eovaldi, Price and Sale were all under contract for the next three years, the fifth spot could be used for a more cost-effective starting pitching option.

But sometimes you have to prioritize what you know, and what we know of Porcello should be good enough for a new conversation.