DETROIT -- The dust is again off of Rick Porcello's curveball. Actually, it hasn't gathered dust for a while.
The pitch that Tigers officials didn't want Porcello throwing early in his career, for fear it would mess up his command of his slider, is quietly becoming a decent fourth pitch in his arsenal. It was a very good pitch for him on Saturday, giving him the first-pitch strikes he needed to get ahead of White Sox hitters who have learned to sit on his sinker.
"It's just a good change of speeds, really," Porcello said. "It's not even a pitch I necessarily want anybody to swing at. It just kind of changes the eye level and slows them down visually a little bit. It's not a pitch I'm going to be getting guys out on consistently, but it serves its purpose."
Porcello threw a half-dozen curveballs out of his 94 pitches on Saturday, according to data from MLB.com Gameday and brooksbaseball.net. Half of those curveballs went for strikes, none of them swinging. By comparison, he threw only one curveball last Monday against the Angels, none against the Twins on July 5, and one on June 30.
For the season, it constitutes about two percent of Porcello's pitches, according to fangraphs.com and STATS Inc. Most of the time, according to STATS Inc., he has thrown it after he has gotten ahead in the count. On Saturday, Porcello said it was a pitch to get him ahead.
"It's not a bad pitch," catcher Alex Avila said. "He just needs to throw it more."