DETROIT -- Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello said he felt much improved after his start on Saturday. The Tigers front office, on the other hand, didn't see quite enough improvement.
The club announced prior to Sunday's game that Porcello's contract was optioned to Triple-A Toledo. The second-year right-hander (4-7) took the loss on Saturday after surrendering four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. It was his first start since being skipped in the rotation after allowing eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings on June 9 against the White Sox.
Porcello used the extra time off to work on his sinker, which was hanging up in the strike zone and getting smashed by opposing hitters. The sinker wasn't the problem for Porcello on Saturday. Instead, it was his lack of a third pitch that landed him in trouble.
Porcello will start in Toledo on Thursday and said finding that third pitch will be the key to his return to the big leagues.
"This is just something where I know I can pitch at this level, but it's going to be easier for me to work on stuff down in Toledo than it would be up here trying to iron stuff out while we are in a pennant race," Porcello said. "It's just too tough to do here."
The 21-year-old wasn't distraught when he heard the news Sunday morning and said it won't hurt his confidence.
"There are very few guys that go through their Major League careers smooth sailing without a few speed bumps," Porcello said. "This isn't anything I can't go and deal with and get right. I know I have the ability to pitch successfully up here. I just need to go down and straighten a couple things out."
The Tigers revealed on Monday that they will recall right-handed reliever Jay Sborz from Toledo. Sborz is 1-1 with a 3.04 ERA and 15 saves in 24 appearances for the Mud Hens. He has struck out 28 in 26 2/3 innings and his saves total ranks third in the International League. Sborz will join the team in New York, where the Tigers are to open a three-game series on Tuesday.
Tigers president Dave Dombrowski did not set a timetable for Porcello's return.
"He needed to get away from here," Dombrowski said. "There are a lot of good guys that we've optioned out throughout the years that come back. Sometimes you just need to get away from here. You can work with things at the Minor League level that you can't work on here. He did work on some things, and I thought he made some tremendous progress on the side, but it didn't carry over into the game as much as we'd hoped it would [Saturday] night."
Porcello was a contender for the American League Rookie of the Year last season. He boasted a 14-9 record with a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts. His sophomore campaign, surprisingly, hasn't been nearly as successful.
Dombrowski didn't say who would take Porcello's spot in the rotation, as the club prepared to depart on a nine-game road trip.
Reliever Enrique Gonzalez may be the leading candidate to fill the void, at least for the moment. Gonzalez made his second big league appearance of the season on Saturday and threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings for the Tigers.
The Venezuelan-born pitcher was a starter in Toledo before being called up due to an injury to reliever Ryan Perry. He boasted a 4-5 record with a 3.46 ERA for the Mud Hens. The right-hander made a positive impression on the skipper after his performance on Saturday.
"He did an absolutely outstanding job," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Gonzalez after the game.
Porcello will try and mirror the success of fellow starter Max Scherzer. Scherzer was sent down to Triple-A earlier this season and got to work right away. He adjusted his arm action and found himself back in the big leagues after back-to-back wins with a 0.60 ERA. And, oh yeah, he struck out 14 batters in his first game back with the Tigers.
"Nobody likes to be sent down, obviously, but you look at the positives from it," Porcello said. "I'll go down there and work as hard as I need to work to get back here and be successful and help us win. I'm not doing anybody any good going out there and giving up five runs a game. I've got to go down there and figure some stuff out. I'll be back."
Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.