Not much happens this early in Spring Training that means much of anything to the upcoming regular season. Granted a star player can go down with an injury or a youngster can begin to have a spectacular spring but, for the most part, managers are trying to get a look at young players. Most of those young players will be back in the minors in a couple of weeks but the regulars are still trying to get in shape for the long haul ahead.
None of the veteran pitchers are going to throw more than an inning or two or three at the most this early and, for the most part, they are working on control, which they now call command, and trying to get their rhythm and release point down and avoiding putting too much stress on the arm this early while not caring if they get hit.
The old story about the rookie who writes home and says ‘I’ll be home soon, they started throwing curves today’, while not exactly the same in this day and age, is still true to some degree. Today however, it’s more like ‘I’ll be home soon, the big boys have started to play’, as teams come into spring with rosters a lot more set than they used to. It’s a rare rookie that is going to make the starting lineup on Opening Day.
Over in Red Sox territory, however, the past two days have seen what I like to think of as a peek at the future of the Red Sox. On Sunday, Rick Porcello, the right hander the Sox picked up from the Detroit Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes, threw three innings against the New York Mets, giving up four hits and one run while striking out two.
On Monday, Wade Miley, the left hander the Sox picked up from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Rubby DeLaRosa and Alan Webster, pitched three innings against the St. Louis Cardinals, gave up three hits, no walks and no runs and had two strikeouts.
Why do I think these two outings are important from the Red Sox point of view? I happen to think that Porcello and Miley will be almost as important to the Red Sox, if not more important than, the big stars they picked up, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.
Pitching is the name of the game and Porcello and Miley are the real thing. Both are 26 years old with plenty of big league experience, Porcello with six years and 76 wins, Miley with four years and 38 wins. Both have proven they can give you a full year of starts, Porcello has started 31 times or more in four of his six seasons and Miley has had 33 starts in each of the last two seasons.
Both are durable, Porcello threw 205 innings last year and Miley 201. Porcello, with a winning team at Detroit, pitching behind three Cy Young winners in Justin Verlander, Max Schirzer and David Price, was 15-13 last year with a 3.43 ERA. Miley, with the last place, 64-98, D’Backs, still was 8-12 with a respectable 4.34 ERA and he has a career 3.79 ERA.
I was in Chase Field for the D’Backs second game of the year last year against the future World Champion San Francisco Giants and saw Miley give up a three run homer to Brandon Belt in the first inning and then turn around and hold the Giants to one run, while striking out five and walking just one for another six innings as the D’Backs came back to win 5-4.
These are two young but proven starters who, with Clay Buchholz, if he can stay healthy, could form the base of a solid pitching rotation. If these two can perform as well as they have shown they can, they could be the key to another remarkable turnaround for the Red Sox.