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Tigers' Porcello hopes sharp first half worthy of All-Star nod

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The Canadian Press
7/7/2014 6:38:28 PM
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DETROIT - As of now, Max Scherzer is the only pitcher representing Detroit's starting rotation on the American League All-Star team.

He'd like to help change that.

Scherzer is lobbying fans to support teammate Rick Porcello in the online vote for the AL's final spot. The 25-year-old Porcello threw back-to-back shutouts recently to put himself on the fringe of the All-Star roster, but he's not a member of the team yet.

"We need our fans to really show up and vote for Rick," said Scherzer, who started the All-Star game last year and eventually won the Cy Young Award. "Come on fans, vote for Rick."

With or without an All-Star invite, Porcello is developing into the pitcher many thought he could be after the Tigers drafted him in the first round in 2007. He made his debut as a 20-year-old, winning 14 games in 2009.

Since then, he's been a consistent presence in the rotation, but he's never been able to match the 3.96 ERA he posted as a rookie.

Until this year, perhaps.

Porcello is 11-5 with a 3.53 ERA so far, helping the Tigers remain in first place most of the season despite Justin Verlander's struggles and Anibal Sanchez's brief injury problems.

The candidates for the final All-Star spot in the AL are all pitchers: Porcello, Dallas Keuchel of Houston, Corey Kluber of Cleveland, Garrett Richards of the Los Angeles Angels and Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox.

"Obviously, it would be awesome to be able to go, but at the same time, it doesn't take anything away from how well I feel like I've pitched the first half," Porcello said. "I'm proud of the work I've done the first half."

Porcello set a career high with 142 strikeouts last year, but that's never been his calling card. He succeeds when he's able to keep the ball down — with a career groundball percentage of 53.1.

"He's throwing strikes at a really high rate," Scherzer said. "He's not walking guys, which is always a recipe for success. His offspeed pitches have really sharpened up. ... He's always had the sinker. Nothing's changed in the sinker, it's what he's doing with his other offspeed pitches that allows him to be more effective."

Immediately after being included in the final vote for the All-Star team, Porcello allowed seven runs Sunday night in a loss to Tampa Bay. Not an ideal audition on national television.

But before that, Porcello had a 25-inning scoreless streak.

"We've said all along the key for him is being down with his sinker," manager Brad Ausmus said. "When it gets up, it gets flat and you see more flyballs."

"He made the adjustment, he actually started getting the ball down in the zone. He got some groundballs, a couple of them found holes and ended up being hits but he got the groundballs he was trying to get," Ausmus said.

Detroit has three players in the All-Star game at the moment: Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Ausmus had been hoping Porcello and second baseman Ian Kinsler would get in as well from the AL Central leaders.

"It's tough when you have that many guys on one team with the All-Star game roster rules, it's tough for all of them to make it," Ausmus said. "But if Rick can win, we get four out of five and who knows what can happen between now and the All-Star game, maybe Kins gets on there as well. All of them were deserving."

NOTES: Cabrera said he was invited to participate in the All-Star home run derby, but he'll sit out because he doesn't want to mess with his swing. "I'm going to enjoy watching," he said.

Rick Porcello (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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