Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello has been at his best during his 33 starts with Boston when he has relied on his sinker, Scott Lauber of ESPN.com details. During his first 20 starts last season, Porcello threw his sinker 28 percent of the time against lefties and 41 percent versus right-handed hitters – down from career rates of 42 and 52 percent, respectively – and he pitched to an ugly 5.81 ERA. After a stint on the disabled list, Porcello returned and finished the season strong (3.14 ERA in eight starts) while throwing sinkers 44 percent of the time to lefty batters and 58 percent against righties. He’s at 49 and 57 percent this year, respectively, and has been among the top pitchers in baseball with a 2.76 ERA, 9.92 K/9, 1.65 BB/9 and 49.4 percent ground-ball rate over 32 2/3 innings (five starts). “He had to work extremely hard to get the sink back, to get that mindset back, because he had gotten away from it a little bit,” pitching coach Carl Willis told Lauber. “But once you get to that point, I think it’s simple because it allows him to then be himself and pitch to his strengths.” In addition to throwing more sinkers, Porcello helped his cause by changing his arm slot late in Spring Training after he raised it slightly thanks to an increased use of four-seam fastballs, per Willis.
More from around the American League…
- White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams says the team has gotten over the Spring Training Adam LaRoche saga, which isn’t a surprise considering the club’s AL-best 17-8 record. “I had to do what was best for all parties. I’ve tried to stay above the fray and chose the road less traveled — the high road. We don’t talk about it anymore,” he told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Williams, of course, took plenty of heat from White Sox players when he told LaRoche that his son had to spend less time in the clubhouse, leading the first baseman/designated hitter to retire in March with $13MM left on his contract.
- Yankees third baseman Chase Headley failed to amass a single extra-base hit in April while batting .150/.268/.150 in 71 plate appearances, and his struggles are thanks in part to his home ballpark. “Everybody talks about how good of a ballpark Yankee Stadium is to hit in, but it’s pretty big with the exception of right field,” he told FanGraphs’ David Laurila. “The rest of it plays as big, or bigger, than most yards. It’s maybe a better fit for guys who hit the ball high down the line than it for guys who hit the ball like I have for a lot of my career.” Headley is “working on” hitting the ball in the air more to right field and wants to increase elevation in general to combat defensive shifts. The 31-year-old has a 46.8 percent ground-ball rate and a fly ball percentage of 29.8 percent this season. Both of those numbers are worse than his career rates of 44.6 and 33.6, respectively.
- Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton began a minor league rehab assignment Saturday in Double-A and totaled two at-bats, per Dave Sessions of MLB.com. Hamilton, who missed all of Spring Training with left knee problems, will need to accrue at least 20 to 30 ABs during his rehab assignment before rejoining the Rangers, manager Jeff Banister said. It’s unclear how Hamilton, who hit .253/.291/.441 with eight home runs in 182 plate appearances last year, will fit into the Rangers’ outfield plans when he returns. In addition to Hamilton, Shin-Soo Choo should come back later this month month from a calf injury to join an outfield that has mostly relied on Nomar Mazara, Delino DeShields and Ian Desmond this year.