Rick Porcello's Red Sox career is likely winding down, so let's salute what he has meant to the team

John Tomase
NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON -- Let's just get this out of the way -- under no circumstances should the Red Sox make Rick Porcello a qualifying offer.

He'd be crazy not to sign the one-year, $18 million tender on the spot, in his own blood if he has to, and the team desperately needs to upgrade his spot in the rotation, since Chris Sale ($145 million), David Price ($96 million), Nathan Eovaldi ($51 million), and Eduardo Rodriguez (cheap) aren't going anywhere.

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That leaves Porcello as the odd man out, and his performance certainly hasn't merited the extension a number of us believed he deserved before the season (raises hand). He entered his start vs. Friday night vs. the Orioles ranked 68th out of 69 qualified starters in ERA (5.67), and there's nothing misleading about that stat. He has pitched poorly.

We're not here to crush him, however. He has done plenty of that to himself, not to mention dugout flat screens. Instead, with his Red Sox career presumably winding to a close, let us salute his rocky, rollercoaster, and ultimately rewarding tenure.

The Red Sox acquired him in December of 2014 for Yoenis Cespedes and then signed him to a four-year, $82.5 million extension on the eve of the season. Porcello rewarded the faith of GM Ben Cherington by going 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA, which contributed to Cherington being relieved of his job that August.

In came Dave Dombrowski, who had shown no interest in extending Porcello with the Tigers. Whatever skepticism Dombrowski may have harbored, the right-hander dispelled it -- and made Cherington's decision look far more prescient -- by delivering one of the most unlikely Cy Young seasons in recent memory.

Porcello went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA, leading the AL in strikeout-to-walk ratio and claiming the trophy that no one saw coming.

He followed in 2017 with another cannonball into the toilet, leading the AL in losses (17) and tying a Red Sox record by allowing 38 home runs.

But still he persevered and in 2018 he not only won 17 games as a stable No. 3 starter, he also manned up in the postseason with a pair of pivotal relief outings. When the Red Sox hoisted the World Series trophy, they could point to Porcello as one of the leaders of not just the staff, but the entire clubhouse. Not bad for a guy who looked like a bust in year one, but now would love nothing more than to stay in Boston.

That brings us to Friday night. Porcello gutted out six innings of one-run ball against the Orioles. He wasn't overpowering (one swing and miss), but he kept the ball in the park for the first time in eight starts and survived some hard contact (six balls hit at least 90 mph) to keep the O's in check.

There's no sense in pretending Baltimore is a threat on any side of the ball, but the Orioles had hit Porcello hard in two prior starts, totaling nine runs in nine innings. In the course of beating them on Friday, he crossed the 2,000-inning threshold for his career, a meaningful milestone for a pitcher who considers reliability his calling card.

"Definitely very proud of that," Porcello said. "It's been a tough year, but this is kind of a night where I can look back and say 

I got 6,000 outs in the big leagues and not many people can say they did that. I'm very proud of that and a lot of people have helped me and supported me along the way to be able to get through it, to 2,000 innings. I'm just fortunate enough to be able to stay healthy and do it. It's a nice night and a little side note and a nice little accomplishment."

Manager Alex Cora saluted Porcello and noted the role he'll need to play if the Red Sox are to drag themselves back into contention.

"Two thousand innings at this level, you don't do that just being lucky," Cora said. "You've got to work, and you've got to grind. . . . He was good for us last year. He won a Cy Young before. So, he can put a streak of quality starts just like Chris and the rest of the guys and help us pull this off."

 

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Rick Porcello's Red Sox career is likely winding down, so let's salute what he has meant to the team originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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