Rick Porcello: A Jersey Boy Takes On the Yankees

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Rick Porcello: A Jersey Boy Takes On the Yankees
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Throughout high school, our baseball team was not known for being successful. Sure, there were a bunch of talented players on the team, but that never translated into much.

Seton Hall Prep was the team we dreaded playing. Might as well start them off with a 10-run lead because they scored runs quick and held down their opponents. When they played us, it was almost always a give-me game.

The school produced good baseball players, which is why I wasn't surprised two years ago when Seton Hall had two players being heavily scouted by professional teams.

The standout was Rick Porcello, a right-handed pitcher who, at 18, was blowing hitters away with his fastball and killer change-up.

Porcello was drafted No. 27 in the first round of the 2007 draft by the Tigers. He spent the 2008 season in the minors, and in 2009 made the rotation out of spring training.

Tomorrow night, Porcello will be squaring off against Joba Chamberlain and the Yankees. For most 20-year-olds, that in itself would be a daunting task, but Rick Porcello is from New Jersey.

It is likely (although I'm not completely sure), that he grew up a Yankee fan, so facing not only his hometown team, but possibly the team he rooted for growing up could cause all kinds of nerves.

The scouting reports on Porcello are very good. In high school, his fastball would sometimes reach 96-97 mph, but for right now he is keeping it between 90-94 mph. What sets Porcello off from a lot of other young pitchers is that he doesn't rely on his fastball to get hitters out.

His best pitch in high school was his curveball, but if for some reason that pitch isn't working for him, his change-up tends to be his out pitch. What makes it such an effective pitch is that it ranges from 76-79 mph. He gets a lot of swings and misses when he goes to that pitch, especially if he throws his fastball to set up the change.

Scouts have also noted that Porcello has great command for his age. He hasn't let all the hype of pitching in the majors affect him—or at least affect his pitching.

Right now, he's at the back end of the Tigers' rotation, but he is a projected No. 1 starter. If he keeps pitching the way he has thus far he is likely to one day become the No. 1 starter.

It will be interesting to see the matchup between Porcello and Chamberlain. Both pitchers throw hard and have several pitches in their arsenal. Chamberlain has more major league experience and has been pitching under the bright New York spot light for nearly two years, so he is not likely to be nervous when he takes the hill tomorrow night.

Porcello, on the other hand, might be feeling all kinds of butterflies when he faces his hometown team. A lot of eyes from New Jersey, Yankee fans or not, will be tuned in when the Yankees and Tigers play tomorrow night.

Part of me will be rooting for my fellow New Jerseyan, but my allegiance lies with one team only. We'll see how Porcello fairs when the spot light is really turned up on him.

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