ARLINGTON, Texas -- If you want to go by the numbers, go ahead.
If Rick Porcello never pitches for the Red Sox again he will have started two fewer games than Jim Longborg and six more than Mike Torrez. Since arriving with the Sox his team has gone 98-69 in his starts, with Porcello combining for a 4.45 ERA. He's had good years, bad years and an American League Cy Young Award along the way.
Potentially his last start in a Red Sox' uniform? A solid six-inning, three-run outing against the Rangers Wednesday night.
None of it tells the story of Porcello.
When he got here the righty was a 27-year-old sinkerballer whose existence was that of a career second fiddle thanks to living life on the same pitching staff with the likes of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Five seasons later Porcello has been one of those guys making his mark beyond those numbers. It might not get him the contract he was hoping for but it will allow for a pretty memorable legacy.
"I sat there and said, ‘Shit!’ It’s been a tough one this year," said Porcello regarding his thoughts upon finishing up his six innings at Globe Life Park. "I don’t want to get too emotional or close the door on anything. Who knows what’s going to happen in the offseason. But from the bottom of my heart, it’s been an absolute pleasure to wear this uniform and pitch for the Red Sox organization the last five years for Mr. (John) Henry and Mr. (Tom) Werner and all these guys. The coaching staff, all these players, it’s as good a group as you’re going to find. I know this year hasn’t worked out the way we wanted to but it doesn’t take away from the special human beings we have in this clubhouse and that’s really for me, sitting there and soaking that in, was nice."
Some might not care about what he represented off the mound, simply wanting to judge Porcello on runs given up and ERA. Too much money. Too much inconsistency. So be it.
If this is the final time we see Porcello on the mound for the Red Sox we should take the time to relay the reality of this pitcher. He represents the kind of professional athlete teams should strive to prioritize. Simply put, he gets it. He has made $20 million a year over the past four seasons but carries himself like someone who would legitimately still be playing baseball for free. And isn't that the kind of player we always say we want to prioritize.
The business of baseball may now lead Porcello out of Boston, which is why this reminder is warranted.
"Like we talked about it, in spring training, we know because of the nature of the business, not everybody is going to be together. He’s a free agent," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "We don’t know what’s going to happen but we’re very proud of what he’s done throughout his years here. This is a guy that, for me, he means a lot, not only on the field what he did last year and the way he fought this year, but in the clubhouse. He’s one of those guys that I rely on. It’s good to see him finishing the season this way. It’s kind of like a teaching moment for a lot of young guys in the clubhouse. Regardless of how good or how bad you struggle over 162 games, preparation and going about it the right way, it’s very important. From Day one when he struggled in Seattle, it’s been a grind. He kept working at it, kept working at it and now, the last three or four or whatever it’s been, it’s been solid. It’s been the same guy in between starts, just trying to improve and find it. That’s the way it should be. We like those kind of players. Those are the kind of players we want in our organization as far as being a pro and prepared regardless of the situation. He’s been amazing for us."