Porcello favoring curveball over slider early

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The storyline with Rick Porcello going into Spring Training was the slider he was working on with pitching coach Jeff Jones over the past month. Two starts into the Grapefruit League season, his curveball has been a bigger pitch for him.

If Porcello is going to throw one breaking ball, it might be his choice.

Among the mix of pitches Wednesday against the Braves was a steady collection of curveballs. One worked out well, freezing Dan Uggla for a called third strike with runners on second and third and one out in the opening inning. Another hit Reed Johnson on a three-ball count to create the jam in the first place.

Good and bad, they were hard to miss, much like his previous outing against the Braves last Friday. The slider hasn't been seen. One scout watching Wednesday's outing said he didn't see any sliders, only curveballs when Porcello chose to go to a breaking ball.

Porcello confirmed as much.

"Right now, I'm just working on one breaking ball," Porcello said, "just working on getting the command of one and establishing that, and we'll go from there."

That doesn't mean the slider won't show up later, but it's not a priority now.

Porcello flirted with both at various points last season, and he had success at different stretches with each. As a young pitcher, the Tigers have preferred him to focus on one, usually the slider in past years, but they've been open to him working on both.

Porcello gave up three runs on four hits over his two innings of work in Detroit's 5-3 to Atlanta on Wednesday. All three runs came in on a first-inning home run by Juan Francisco, who jumped on a 1-0 fastball.

In a regular-season situation, it wouldn't be a pitch manager Jim Leyland would favor in that count. In this case, Leyland said, he just made a point of it.

"He just didn't make a very good selection, but I don't think he would've done that during the season," Leyland said. "With first base [open], to get behind 1-0 and throw a fastball in that situation, he wouldn't do that during the season."