CHICAGO -- In the 24 days that Rick Porcello spent on the disabled list, he prioritized regaining his identity as a pitcher. Most of the success Porcello has had during his career is because of a nasty sinker, and for reasons he now regrets, he got away from his strength.
So, as Porcello returned to the mound on Wednesday night against the White Sox, he was determined to establish the pitch and stay with it. In doing so, Porcello fired seven shutout innings to lead the Red Sox to a 3-0 victory over the White Sox.
"If there's one thing I'm really focusing on going forward, it's keeping the ball down, sinking the ball below the zone -- not only in this ballpark but in a lot of ballparks in the AL East," Porcello said. "You've got to keep it down. You've got to keep it out of the air. I did a good job of that tonight."
So why did Porcello get away from it earlier in the year?
Porcello thinks that some of the success he had with his four-seamer earlier in the year allowed him to get carried away. That led to some mechanical breakdowns and Porcello going away from his proverbial bread and butter too often.
"I pinpointed inconsistencies that led to inconsistently locating the fastball," Porcello said. "My delivery, kind of going back and forth with the four seamer and sinker, I found it hard to get a groove with one pitch. It wasn't anything that I could foresee happening.
"I was throwing some pretty good four-seam fastballs early on in the year, and it was a viable weapon for me, and in turn it kind of led to me getting away from doing what I do well, which is sink the ball. I kind of came to the realization that I need to throw sinkers primarily and then occasionally throw a four-seamer -- not 50-50 or anything like that.
"That's what we talked about a lot -- just trying to get back to keeping the ball down and then have timely, elevated fastballs."
In hindsight, the right triceps strain that landed Porcello on the DL might have been a positive.
"I think the biggest thing is using [the downtime] productively and mentally and physically getting back on track with my sinker," Porcello said. "I had an opportunity to throw bullpens and just playing catch every day. And then the rehab starts, just focus on throwing sinkers and just getting that feel back. I guess that time off definitely did help, and it felt good today."
Porcello's overall numbers (6-11, 5.47 ERA) demonstrated how tough a first season it has been for him in Boston. But he still has four years left on his contract with the Red Sox, and a strong finish to this season could do wonders for his confidence.
"There's a lot to accomplish in the next month or so," Porcello said, "and I'm looking forward to doing that and getting on track, and like you said, it's something I can carry into the offseason and following into next year."
If anything, Wednesday represented the type of performance the Red expected Porcello to produce regularly when they traded for him in the winter and signed him to an extension in the spring.
"The look on his face after the outing was very encouraging," said Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo. "He was staying in his delivery. The ball was coming out of his hand real good. [He had] good two-seam action on his fastball. Anytime he went to his four-seam, he seemed to spot it up. He got some swing and misses. Some easy outs with his changeup.
"It just was all working for him. We're really happy for him."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.