It wasn't simply the two perfect innings he threw in Tuesday's split-squad game against the Indians or the arsenal he displayed in his third outing of the spring. It was also the way he carried himself.
"The best thing I saw about Rick Porcello all spring ... Yesterday he threw a curveball on the screen back to the backstop, way up over everybody's head," manager Jim Leyland said on Wednesday. "The next pitch, he acted like nothing happened at all. He settled right back in, never even wavered, never showed any emotion, nothing. He just got the ball back, threw a strike the next pitch. That impressed me more than anything I saw."
Leyland gave Porcello the same type of instruction that he gives most players when they're sent back to the Minors. He told the 19-year-old to go down, get his work in and prepare himself. Mentally, however, his poise provides a building block for the road ahead.
Porcello said earlier this spring that he was prepared for a long route to the big leagues, but he has already avoided one step along his way. When the Tigers sent him out Wednesday morning, they optioned him to high Class A Lakeland rather than low Class A West Michigan.
The reasons, Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombowski explained, were twofold.
"I think first and foremost is the weather," Dombrowski said. "Just the idea that he can go out there and pitch comfortably every five days early in the year where you have more uncertainties in that regard in the Midwest. We've done the same thing with [other] guys not going to Double-A [Erie] at times. We've kept them here.
"And the other thing would be that when you come down to it, everybody thought he was capable of pitching at [that] level. So really the combination is what led us to the decision."
The Tigers have taken a pitcher with their top pick in four of the last five First-Year Player Drafts. The three previous pitchers -- Andrew Miller, Justin Verlander and Kyle Sleeth -- all began their first full professional seasons in Lakeland as well. The only difference is that they were college pitchers.
Porcello has made club officials believe he can handle the jump, not just from his pitching, but from his persona.
"Presence, concentration, confidence, that's a big part of playing in the big leagues," Leyland said. "Everybody up here has got ability."
McBride optioned: Also optioned out with the first round of cuts was left-hander Macay McBride, who was sent to Triple-A Toledo to be part of the Mud Hens' starting rotation. It'll be an adjustment for the 25-year-old, who has not spent a full season as a starter since 2003 in high Class A ball. He made five starts in the rotation at Triple-A Richmond to open last season before he was moved into the bullpen.
"His first time was very good as a starter," Leyland said. "I think it enabled him to use all his pitches. When you're coming out of the bullpen as a left-handed relief specialist, you're usually basically limited to two pitches. We just think this is something we need to try. We think it gives him his best opportunity. It doesn't mean he couldn't at some point come back as a reliever, but he's a young left-handed pitcher, and left-handers usually take a little longer. We think he's got a lot of potential."
Rapada recovering: Fellow left-hander Clay Rapada threw a full bullpen session on Wednesday, mixing in fastballs, changeups and breaking balls.
"And I was able to walk away with no pain," he said, clearly upbeat.
Rapada has yet to pitch in a game since experiencing tendinitis in his shoulder early in camp, but that could change next week. If he feels fine on Thursday, the next step would likely be a session of batting practice on Saturday.
Tata updated: Jordan Tata's visit with a hand specialist on Monday confirmed the club's initial diagnosis of a fractured metacarpal at the base of his right pinky finger, suffered when he punched a door following his last outing.
The timetable, Tata said, suggests he could be cleared for light throwing in three weeks, with another two weeks before he throws off a mound. One factor in his favor is that with a removable cast, he can work out his shoulder and keep some strength in his arm.
Tata also had his shoulder checked out to see if there was any injury to blame for his control problems this spring. An examination by Dr. Stephen Lemos showed no damage, giving Tata some peace of mind.
Class of '07: Danny Worth, Detroit's second-round pick in last summer's First-Year Player Draft, had a two-run single in the Tigers' 5-4 loss to the Braves last Thursday. He finished the spring 2-for-10 with a walk and a strikeout before being assigned to Minor League camp on Wednesday. ... Cale Iorg, Detroit's sixth-round selection, went 1-for-3 as a reserve in Tuesday's extra-inning win over the Indians.
What they're saying: "A lot of times, big-time power and strikeouts go hand-in-hand. But I do think it's a matter of being able to make some adjustments, give in a little bit at certain times. I think that's a big factor for him. He's got big-time power." -- Leyland, on first baseman Jeff Larish, who was assigned to Minor League camp Wednesday
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.