KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rick Porcello, who starts for the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon against the Royals, was in the bullpen at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday and threw approximately 20 pitches.
Most starters take a day off before they pitch or just play catch. But Porcello has found that throwing off the mound helps lock in his mechanics.
“I can carry it into my start,” he said. “If I’m getting out too quick, it’s just a little reminder that I have to stay back, stay tall over the rubber.”
Throwing from flat ground doesn’t accomplish the same thing.
“I can be pretty much spot-on and then I get in the game and it feels completely different on the mound,” Porcello said.
Porcello is 10 seasons deep into his major league career and has come to understand that even the smallest details can make a difference in how he prepares for starts. What works in April is different in July.
“The innings are starting to build up. My body wants to kind of take over and the arm and shoulder don’t want to work as much,” he said. “Everything wants to get going towards home plate. It’s feeling that and constantly keep it in my head that I need to stay over the rubber and execute pitches consistently.
“Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve learned a lot about why my body does certain things and what makes certain pitches good and others not as good.”
Porcello was once a sinkerball pitcher who needed groundball outs to survive. Now he’s a more versatile pitcher whose strikeout rate has climbed steadily since he was traded to the Red Sox. He credits the organization’s analytics department.
“There are resources here,” Porcello said. “They give you every possible chance to figure out who you are and stay on top of that. I’m not close to the same guy I was.
“When I was 12 or 13 years old, I’d go to a camp and hear coaches say that baseball was a game of adjustments. I feel like my career is the epitome of that, constantly trying to change to be effective and correct things.”
Porcello is 10-3 with a 3.57 earned run average and the Sox are 12-6 in his starts.
“Very consistent. Not only on the field but in the clubhouse,” manager Alex Cora said. “He shows the rest of the group how to prepare . . . if you’re going to beat him, you better be prepared. It’s not that easy.”
The Royals have given Porcello trouble over the years. He is 8-8 with a 4.70 ERA in 22 career starts against Kansas City including 0-3 with a 7.41 ERA in three starts with the Sox.
“They’ve changed over the years,” Porcello said. “That’s just part of the ebb and flow of the game. Sometimes you have great years against certain teams and sometimes you can’t get anybody out.”
Porcello said his pregame preparation is more focused on recent at-bats by opposing batters, not their history against him.
“There are so many things that can change,” Porcello said. “I’d rather see what they look like now. Where they are the last week will do more to help me get strike one.”
Drew Pomeranz made his second minor-league rehabilitation start for Triple A Pawtucket and was much sharper than the last one.
Facing Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at McCoy Stadium, Pomeranz allowed one run on five hits over three innings with two walks and one strikeout. The lefthander threw 37 of 60 pitches for strikes.
Pomeranz gave up four home runs in his start against Rochester last Monday.
Pomeranz, who is returning from biceps tendinitis, is expected to make at least one more start in the minors.
Phillips assigned to Lowell
Brandon Phillips, who was signed to a minor league contract on June 27, was assigned to Single A Lowell. He was 2 for 5 as the DH on Saturday.
Phillips spent 10 days working out at the team’s complex in Fort Myers, Fla. The Sox initially said they would start Phillips with Pawtucket but made a switch.
The 37-year-old second baseman has not played since last season. The three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner was signed in hopes he could supplement the team’s bench, a need since lessened with the addition of Steve Pearce.
With Phillips added to Lowell’s roster, the corresponding move was sending Michael Chavis to Double A Portland.
Chavis was 2 for 14 with four walks and five strikeouts in four games for the Spinners after returning from an 80-game suspension. He tested positive for Turinabol, an anabolic steroid.
Still not interested
Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez said last month they were not interested in taking part in the Home Run Derby. They have since been invited by the MLB Players Association to participate and declined. The All-Star teams will be announced on Sunday. Betts, Martinez, Chris Sale, and perhaps one or two other players are likely to be picked . . . It was University of Nebraska night at Kauffman Stadium. Cornhuskers running backs coach Ryan Held threw out the first pitch accompanied by the Herbie Husker mascot and six cheerleaders. This is definitely not New England.