Porcello is very level-headed about his situation, reflecting a maturity beyond his tender age of 20. He isn't likely to spend his energy trying to show something to the big league club, and he isn't going to pitch too hard, too soon in camp. If he learned anything from his first year in pro ball, it's that the season is too long to go all-out without a pace.
"You don't really know how long the season is until you go through it," Porcello said. "For me, 144 games was a long time. Now, knowing what I have to do to prepare myself, it definitely helps."
It played a major role in his winter workouts. His older brother, Zach, works as an assistant coach at Seton Hall University, so Rick was able to train and throw indoors on campus this winter close to his New Jersey home. Still, he was eager enough to get a head start that he made the trip south right after TigerFest last month, making him one of the early pitchers here after rehabbing Joel Zumaya, Jeremy Bonderman and Macay McBride, plus Justin Verlander.
Porcello wanted to build up his throwing program to be in good shape when pitchers and catchers begin their formal workouts on Saturday. Just as important, though, he wanted to set himself up to be in good shape in August and September.
Porcello says he felt the length of the season as he headed down the stretch last year, but it didn't reflect in his statistics. He went 5-0 in 11 starts after the Florida State League's All-Star break last year, with a 2.34 ERA that was three-fifths of a run lower than the first half. Opponents hit just .227 against him after the break, and he allowed one earned run or none in seven of his final 10 starts.
If there was a battle of fatigue last year, Porcello seemingly won. Still, he's working his way to full strength slowly in preparation for a similar fight.
"This year, I kind of know my body a little better and know what to expect," Porcello said. "I kind of went into it last year with blinders on."
Part of the difference down the stretch could be the improvement in his breaking ball, something the Tigers emphasized to the point that Porcello put aside his slider last year. He expects to continue that work again this season.
The way the Tigers pitching staff shapes up, he'll likely get a good share of work in early spring games. With Armando Galarraga, Fernando Rodney and potentially Justin Verlander competing for their respective countries in next month's World Baseball Classic, there'll be innings to fill, and Porcello will be on a schedule.
That will give Tigers coaches and officials a good amount of time to look at him. But don't expect Porcello to get caught up looking at the Majors.