3/5/2013 6:48 P.M. ET
Porcello as closer not 'wild' idea to Leyland
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
LAKELAND, Fla. -- As questions from reporters go, Rick Porcello as a closer wasn't the craziest idea that manager Jim Leyland has ever heard. Judging by his answer on Monday, it wasn't even high up on the crazy list.
"I don't know that that's necessarily a wild thought," Leyland answered.
Whether it's realistic is another question. At this point, with about three and a half weeks of Spring Training left, it isn't in the works yet.
It wasn't on Porcello's mind after he tossed four scoreless innings against the Astros on Monday afternoon. He wasn't even thinking about trade rumors, or the scouts in the stands. The roster decisions are above his pay grade, he said before correcting himself and saying they're not his job.
"I've said it before -- I'm an established starter in the big leagues," Porcello said. "I believe that I'm going to go win the job, and that's it. I'll leave it at that."
Nevertheless, the closer comment was an interesting one from a manager who is historically not in the camp of baseball people who believe that any reliever can be a closer. Leyland said as far back as January that Porcello could land in the bullpen if he doesn't beat out second-year left-hander Drew Smyly for the fifth spot in the rotation, but closer wasn't a role that came up.
Porcello came to the Tigers as a hard-throwing high schooler, armed with a fastball consistently in the mid-90s. As a pro, he has been a sinkerballer who thrives on ground-ball outs when he's on and mixes in a power fastball to change a hitter's eye level. From a "pure stuff" standpoint, it would be interesting to see how that might change if he pitched in short relief. His only bullpen experience has been in the postseason.
A closer doesn't necessarily have to be a high-velocity, high-strikeout pitcher -- such veteran relievers as Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman have proven that over the years. If they're not, though, they'd better have a dominant primary pitch.
Fausto Carmona, now known as Roberto Hernandez, started his Major League career as a hard-throwing reliever with the Indians in 2006 but didn't have that out pitch. The next year, Cleveland moved him into the rotation, where he became a far more successful sinkerballer on the American League Central title team that came within a win of making it to the World Series. His career has been up and down ever since, and he's now in camp with the Rays. The sinkerballing styles are somewhat similar, though the velocities are not.
Porcello is scheduled to get more starts than any other Tiger this spring, giving the team -- and scouts from other clubs -- every chance to evaluate him. For Detroit to even think about him as a short reliever would almost surely end the trade speculation, because it would end the starts. He would have to get some preparation time.
No problems for Boesch after exhibition game
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Brennan Boesch said that he felt Opening Day-type nerves before he stepped to the plate against Western Michigan on Tuesday. The key for the Tigers in this Minor League exhibition was that Boesch didn't feel anything in the oblique muscle that he strained two and a half weeks ago.
Boesch felt fine, going 2-for-3 with a home run and a walk in four plate appearances as the designated hitter.
"It felt great," Boesch said. "I felt excited. I was even nervous before, you know, just getting back out there. It feels great to play a sport I love again. It's been a while. ... I've been patient in my return, and I'm glad it has paid off."
The Tigers maneuvered the lineup so that Boesch could bat in each of the first four innings on a day when the rest of the big league camp was off. He grounded out to first base in the opening inning against sophomore right-hander Casey Hall before sending a ground ball through the right side for a single in the second.
Boesch worked a nine-pitch walk in the third inning, fouling off three consecutive full-count pitches from senior right-hander Nick Bradley. He tested his oblique trying to steal second base but was retired on a ground-ball forceout.
"I had a chance to do everything except, obviously, field," he said. "I'm very pleased with how my body responded, which was the most important thing."
Boesch's home run came on a 1-1 pitch from sophomore righty Adam Jones and went over the corner of the indoor batting-cage building in right field, just to the right of the scoreboard.
"It didn't help the Tigers beat the White Sox or anything. Those feel a lot better," Boesch said. "It's just [that] I've been working hard to get back, so it just feels good to be able to get through a couple of at-bats and run around."
The Tigers return to action on Wednesday against the Blue Jays at Joker Marchant Stadium at 1:05 p.m. ET. If Boesch gets the start, either at DH or in the outfield, he'll get to face his roommate from the University of California, starter Brandon Morrow.
"As far as I know, I'll hopefully be in there tomorrow unless I wake up and something's completely messed up," Boesch said. "I don't expect there to be any lingering problems."
Both Boesch and Morrow have been through their share of injuries and trade rumors in their careers, and they've turned to each other for advice. Boesch joked he might send one more request.
"I'm going to text him and say, 'Just please lay it in there for me, please,'" he said.