JUPITER, Fla. -- Rick Porcello spent a good part of last Spring Training honing his breaking ball, and saw it pay off big. His sequel to the Camp of the Curveball appears to be the Chase for the Changeup.
In that respect, his latest outing on Sunday against the Marlins was a point of encouragement. On an afternoon when his sinker was sailing a bit and he saw Giancarlo Stanton send one of his fastballs off the balcony of the building beyond left field, Porcello had some good results from his offspeed pitch.
"I was up in the zone a little bit today with a lot of pitches," Porcello said, "but I was able to make pitches when I needed to. Sinker was getting some ground balls. Really, the best part about today was my changeup started diving again."
The changeup has been a decent secondary pitch in past years for Porcello with increasing usage, comprising a career-high 15.5 percent of his pitches last year. He threw it for strikes two-thirds of the time, but did not have high swing-and-miss or groundball rates with it.
"When I'm feeling it, it's really good. It's a legitimate swing-and-miss pitch," Porcello said. "And because it's such a feel pitch, sometimes you don't have the same feel for it. I want to get to a point where I don't necessarily generate swings and misses with it every time out, but to have something useable to keep them off-balance every game."
None of his three strikeouts over 3 1/3 innings came on the offspeed. He did, however, induce a Jarrod Saltalacchia groundout from it, one of six ground-ball outs on Porcello's first eight batters, and a swing-and-miss from another hitter he couldn't remember.
"It just had a lot better action on it today than it has in the past two starts, and that's been something I've been working on," Porcello said.
Tigers dismiss Porcello trade rumors
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Tigers had a flurry of trade rumors surrounding their starting pitchers during the offseason until Doug Fister went to Washington. That seemingly ended the rotation speculation. Then came a Sunday report from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe citing Major League sources saying the Tigers are still willing to listen on trade offers for Rick Porcello.
No sooner did the report hit MLB Trade Rumors than team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski denied any trade talks involving any of their starting pitchers, including Porcello.
"We're not trading any of our starting pitchers," Dombrowski said. "I don't know where that came from, but that is totally inaccurate. ... We haven't mentioned his name to one person. No one has called me [about him]."
Logistically, the rumor doesn't make sense at the moment. If this were last spring, and the Tigers had a ready replacement, then one could see the Tigers gauging interest, as they were rumored to be doing then. Porcello has two seasons to go, including this one, before free agency, so the Tigers have a decision to make about his long-term future. History suggests most teams try to make that decision with starting pitchers two years out from free agency.
Once the Tigers traded Fister, however, they went from six viable starters to five. If somebody gets hurt, their next man up would likely be Jose Alvarez or Kyle Lobstein. Robbie Ray, the prospect the Tigers received in the Fister trade, is expected to start at Triple-A Toledo, and even that is seen as an aggressive promotion by some. Unless the Tigers can re-sign Max Scherzer, they'll have a major rotation hole to fill this offseason. A Porcello trade would open up another.
From a performance standpoint, trading Porcello now would not be trading at his peak value. If one believes Porcello is set to benefit from an improved infield defense, then trading now could be argued as selling low.
Iglesias continues to miss time with shin splints
JUPITER, Fla. -- While several Tigers who make their offseason home in South Florida were on the Tigers' two-game trip that concludes in Port St. Lucie on Monday, giving them a chance for a night at home, Jose Iglesias stayed back in Lakeland to continue treating and rehabbing his shins.
"Right now, he's just continuing treatment," manager Brad Ausmus said.
Iglesias was a three-hour bus ride away, but Ausmus was relaying his increasing concern, and a sense of urgency.
Iglesias has missed a week and a half and counting with shin splints. Opening Day arrives three weeks from Monday, with 2 1/2 weeks of Grapefruit League play still to go. However, Iglesias' absence is nearing the point where his readiness for Opening Day is a topic for Ausmus, who brought up the matter himself when a question about Iglesias' timetable came up Sunday morning.
"We're going to hit that point in Spring Training where there won't be enough games for him to get at-bats to be ready for the season," Ausmus said. "We've talked about it internally. We haven't set a firm date on that, but there is going to be a point where if he can't get on the field because of the injury, we're going to have to make a decision."
It's a surprising discussion for what was originally characterized as a week-long absence when Iglesias first left the lineup. Iglesias and the Tigers medical staff sounded optimistic a few days ago that he was on the road to recovery after more padding in his orthotics alleviated the pain.
Dr. Michael Werd, a Lakeland-based foot and ankle specialist, was expected to review video of Iglesias' running stride to determine if any additional changes to his orthotics might help, but that was expected to take a little time.
Iglesias has taken batting practice the past few days without trouble. He tried running Friday and felt some lingering soreness in the shins.
If Iglesias isn't ready for the March 31 season opener, the Tigers' options at short are more extensive than they'd be if he has a day-to-day injury. Utilityman Steve Lombardozzi, who has limited experience at short, is set to back up Iglesias on the 25-man roster. If Iglesias goes on the disabled list at any point, Detroit can call up Hernan Perez or purchase Danny Worth's contract from Triple-A Toledo.
• Evan Reed's two perfect innings continued his quietly dominant Spring Training, now up to six innings of two-hit, one-run ball with no walks and eight strikeouts. Reed is out of Minor League options, which is how the Tigers acquired him from the Marlins out of Spring Training a year ago, so he's making a case for a bullpen spot.
• Tyler Collins' game-tying home run on Sunday was just the third homer on the season for the Tigers. They're still tied for last in the Majors in home runs, while challenging for the big league lead in stolen bases.
• Andy Dirks' microdisectomy surgery on his back will take place Monday in St. Petersburg. The outfielder is expected to be limited in movement for the next three weeks and sidelined from baseball action until June.