Tigers hope Porcello, Perry can follow up strong after rookie seasons

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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EAST LANSING, Mich. - Rick Porcello was about as good as a rookie pitcher could be for the Detroit Tigers last season.
He led American League rookies with 14 victories, the first pitcher younger than 21 with that many wins since Dwight Gooden's career got off to a sensational start on the mound a quarter century ago. Porcello also won seven of nine starts at one point, becoming the first player to have such a successful stretch in the AL since Jim Palmer in 1966.
When the Tigers needed him most, he delivered by giving up just two runs and matched a season high with eight strikeouts in the season-ending 163rd game they ended up losing in extra innings at Minnesota.
Porcello, though, was humbled in the middle of the season when some poor performances led to his turn getting skipped in the rotation.
"I learned that if you have one or two bad games, it can rattle you," he said Thursday, when the Tigers Winter Caravan made a stop at the Michigan Associated Press Sports Editors meeting. "But I learned that you have to keep believing in yourself and stay confident in your stuff."
Porcello and Ryan Perry said they benefited from going through their rookie seasons together.
"It was great to have someone who was going through the same thing," Perry said. "When we had struggles, we could talk about it with each other in ways only we could really understand."
Perry wasn't as spectacular as Porcello last year, but he did rank sixth among AL rookies with 53 appearances and had a respectable 3.79 earned-run average.
The Tigers are counting on the hard-throwing right-handers to avoid a sophomore slump after trading starting pitcher Edwin Jackson and choosing not to re-sign relievers Fernando Rodney or Brandon Lyon.
"We're definitely counting on Ricky to be a solid starter for us along with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer," pitching coach Rick Knapp.
Does Perry have a shot to be the eight-inning setup man?
"Ryan will get a chance to be that guy," Knapp said. "But it's a little premature to say he's going to be in that spot.
"We think both can be premiere pitchers, but they've got to take a lot of steps first."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland often says, "I'll take talent," when asked about whether a young player can make it in the majors or if an aging player can hold on.
Porcello and Perry have plenty of it.
"With Perry's stuff, it's fun to be behind the plate because he can just make hitters look silly," catcher Gerald Laird said. "Porcello has the right stuff to be a front-line pitcher and he's got the work ethic to help him get there.
"The biggest thing with both guys is, they pitched pretty well in some meaningful games down the stretch that most rookies don't get a chance to do in the big leagues."

Organizations: Detroit Tigers, American League, Michigan Associated Press Sports Editors

Geographic location: EAST LANSING, Minnesota

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