Detroit Tigers Pitcher Rick Porcello Will Take Next Step in Career Tonight

Adam Dietz@dietztrainCorrespondent IOctober 4, 2011

DETROIT - SEPTEMBER 28: Rick Porcello #48 of the Detroit Tigers pitches in the first inning during the game against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park on September 28, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Rick Porcello has the opportunity tonight to pitch the Detroit Tigers into the American League Championship Series.

Since becoming a full-time starter two seasons ago, many Detroit Tigers fans have debated as to whether or not Rick Porcello will ever be the ace we all hoped for. While he has shown promise and a few bright spots along the way, Porcello has often been inconsistent.

Many fans outside of the Metropolitan Detroit area might consider Porcello overrated, but what we must remember is his age. At only 22 years old, it it safe to say that some of the batters he faces may have children near the same age. Most pitchers do not hit their prime until their late 20s.

Rick Porcello was thrown to the wolves at age 20, and has been an adequate starter since then. He does not dazzle with a strong fastball or flashy style, but what he does do is win. His career earned run average is 4.54 and has a record of 38-30. He will never strike out a ton of hitters, but is a reliable pitcher who can get outs. What more could a team ask for?

Tonight is the biggest game of the 22-year-old's life, not only because it will clinch the Tigers' spot in the ALCS, but because manager Jim Leyland has opted to put Porcello in the rotation over fifth starter Brad Penny, who has playoff and World Series experience). This obvious display of confidence in Porcello will hopefully result in a great performance.

Porcello earned his playoff spot over Penny, but this decision begs the question: how valuable is experience? Porcello put up better numbers than Brad Penny all-around in 2011, but Penny has been there, and knows the postseason drill. I like the Tigers' choice of Porcello over Penny, however, because Rick is the part of the franchise's future, and Penny will be gone after this season, most likely.

As a Tigers fan, I feel confident tonight. A major part of my confidence comes from the Yankees starting A.J. Burnett, who is shadow of what he once was. Having said that, I believe that Porcello is poised to prove himself to be the future of the Tigers. Justin Verlander and Max Sherzer get most of the press, and deservedly so, but Porcello won 15 games this season, and that does not happen by accident.

Rick Porcello's time has come. The question is: will he be ready?