Porcello more confident, effective

Return of sinker, new catcher has righty in good groove

Porcello more confident, effective

BOSTON -- There is a confident look to Rick Porcello these days. His sinker is back, and he has a new catcher in Christian Vazquez. That combination has Porcello feeling more comfortable than he did at any point during his disappointing first season with the Red Sox.

Porcello improved to 3-0 on Wednesday night by going seven strong innings (six hits, three runs, nine strikeouts) in a 7-3 win over the Rays.

The truth is that he was better than that line would indicate. Porcello took a two-hit shutout into the sixth, by which time he had a 6-0 lead. He was in complete command, thanks to the sinker and a changeup that led to several strikeouts.

"I'm getting good results with my weapons," said Porcello. "I'm doing what I know how to do, and in a comfortable fashion. I'm not really trying to get the strikeouts. If I get to two strikes, we're taking our shots, but we're really just trying to execute pitches and see what happens. That's all we can do. I can't really control anything after I let go of the ball."

Porcello actually looks to be in control, and Vazquez has clearly helped.

"You guys can probably see it on TV pretty easily. He's got great hands. Everybody talks about how well he blocks the ball and things like that, but he's got a great feel for calling games," said Porcello. "He sees a lot of things. Simple things, too, like coming out for a mound visit after I got into a little bit of trouble in either the sixth or the seventh, slowing the pace down, he's really talented back there."

Vazquez was activated on Friday, just in time to catch Porcello's start against the Blue Jays. The battery looked even more comfortable on Wednesday.

"My first game here, he was attacking," said Vazquez. "That's a key for him. You know when that the sinker's working, he's going to get success."

Through the first few weeks of Spring Training, Porcello was having a hard time getting the action he needed on the two-seamer.

"Well, I think he figured some things out late in Spring Training from just an arm slot standpoint," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He's been much more consistent down in the strike zone. You look at the strikeout totals and it's not the high four-seam fastballs early last year that he was going to. He's relaxed, he's confident. He and [Vazquez] have teamed up a couple times here and had the pace of the game move along here very good and a good change of speeds."

Porcello is starting to look like the pitcher the Red Sox envisioned when they signed him to a four-year, $82.5 million extension last April.

"My body is in a much more comfortable spot," said Porcello. "I'm seeing the glove a lot more clearly. My release point is much more consistent than it was in Spring Training. That was really what I had been working on the whole spring, just trying to find that. It's starting to come and feel a lot more comfortable."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.