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Porcello eyes spot in 'Show'

Porcello eyes spot in 'Show'
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Rick Porcello tries not to look at each pitching outing as an audition, but that's what they are.

He is competing for the fifth rotation spot with the Detroit Tigers at an age when most talented pitchers are either in college or the minors.

Porcello, 20, was not at his best in Thursday night's 6-3 win against the Tampa Bay Rays in front of 9,539 at Marchant Stadium. But he was a survivor, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first inning with the only run he allowed in 2 1/3 innings.

He said he tries to approach each outing as a "learning experience" and "a chance to get better," but it's impossible to keep the possibility of making the team out of his mind.

"Everybody dreams about it," Porcello said. "Everybody thinks about that when you make it this far in camp."

Training camp breaks after next Thursday's game here, and he still is battling Nate Robertson for that rotation spot.

"I'm excited to still be here and honored they think enough of me to still be here," Porcello said.

He has asked teammate Justin Verlander, the 2006 Rookie of the Year, for advice.

"His talent is off the charts," Verlander said, "but you have to remember he's 20. I was 23 (as a rookie). But Rick is extremely mature for his age and is handling it just outstanding."

Verlander said he has noticed Porcello going through the same struggles with his changeup as he once did and has relayed some tips. Though, mechanics are left to pitching coach Rick Knapp.

Porcello said he spoke with Knapp, Verlander and manager Jim Leyland about the need to "calm down and find a rhythm," but noted that he was excited and over-threw some pitches.

Knapp visited him on the mound to say having command at 91 to 92 mph is preferable to increasing velocity and not spotting pitches.

Porcello wanted to throw more curves and changeups early in the count, but got into control trouble doing that and walked Adam Kennedy and Matt Joyce in the first inning.

He threw 36 pitches in a first inning that included four full-counts, and came out in the third inning after throwing 62 pitches, three under his limit.

"He'll definitely have to throw more pitches over the plate," said Leyland, "and I think he's capable of that. But he's a little green."

Leyland noted that he "struggled" because he was "hyped-up."

But on an off night, something else became very evident. "He maintains his poise very well," Leyland said.

After a walk and two singles loaded the bases with nobody out, Carlos Pena hit a full-count pitch to the warning track in center for a sacrifice fly.

"I wasn't going to walk him," Porcello said. "It was, 'So here it is, hit it.' "

But he walked ex-Tiger Matt Joyce to load them up again before striking out Ben Zobrist on three pitches and having Gabe Gross line out to third base.

The second inning was much better, and he made a behind-the-back grab of a Dioner Navarro liner.

"I thought that ball was going to go through my stomach," Porcello said.

Leyland said Porcello likely will get two more starts.

"It's a chance," Leyland said. "We'll continue to watch him.

"I would not have put him on the club with five scoreless innings, and I'm not taking him off the club because he struggled tonight. But he's a very talented guy."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: March 30, 2009

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