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2015 a golden opportunity for Rick Porcello

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By LIAM BEVANS
College Contributor Network

When Rick Porcello was drafted 27th overall by the Detroit Tigers in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft, expectations for the young stud from New Jersey were sky-high. Porcello, who left a scholarship offer to UNC on the table, was so dominant during his prep career that he became the highest-paid player to ever go right from high school to the pros.

In his rookie season, he drew favorable comparisons to the often dominant, at least at that time, Josh Beckett, and was called upon by Jim Leyland to start in a one-game playoff tiebreaker against the Twins. Porcello pitched admirably in the game, one which the Tigers eventually lost, going 5 2/3 strong innings in the no-decision. The future looked bright for Porcello, he finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, and the anticipation began for him to take his place as the ace on Detroit's staff.

That day never materialized for him however, Porcello struggled mightily at the beginning of 2010 earning a four-game stint in AAA Toledo before returning to Detroit to finish out a 10-12 campaign with a robust 4.92 ERA. Porcello's ERA wouldn't dip below four again until this past season, finishing two games over .500 with a career best 3.43 ERA.

During his time with Detroit, Porcello was often overshadowed by the performances of members of his own staff. Pitching alongside Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander during their CY Young winning seasons, Porcello never got the call to be the ace for Detroit. Porcello has only been called on to start two postseason games in his career, the tiebreaker versus Minnesota not-withstanding, because the Tigers have had other dominant pitchers to lean on. This will not be the case in his first year with Boston.

The Red Sox pitching staff doesn't contain any perennial CY Young winners, despite what Joe Kelly will have you believe, in fact they don't even have a No. 1. With the ever-fragile Clay Buchholz as the staff's most accomplished starter, and a bevy of middling hurlers, Porcello finally has the chance to emerge as an ace. If Porcello is able to take the reigns of this staff, and build upon last year's career-lows in walks, ERA, and WHIP, he will also be able to cash in this offseason.

Under the tutelage of John Farrell, who recently received a vote of confidence from the Red Sox brass, Porcello will be given every opportunity to succeed. The knock on Porcello since he entered the league has been his inability to get the strikeout, relying too heavily on his sinker to constantly induce ground balls. If Porcello is able to diversify his pitches a little more, and work in an under-utilized curve ball that he's been developing since he entered the majors, he has the chance to have a career year for the Red Sox.

I for one, am still skeptical about the upcoming Red Sox season. I absolutely believe the Red Sox improved this offseason, despite losing out on Lester. Bringing in Sandoval and Ramirez certainly filled holes in a putrid order, and moving Boegarts back to short should restore his confidence. But the most important move of all might have been bringing in Porcello. If he pans out, Sox fans could be in for another exciting run.

Liam Bevans is a graduate student at Boston College. He has spent the last six years working for the BC football team both as a student and as an intern.
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