Boston Red Sox player preview 2018: A new, resourceful Rick Porcello

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(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Rick Porcello looks to bring a newfound focus and a return to his 2016 form for the Boston Red Sox in 2018.

The moniker “Cy Young award winner” will forever be affixed to Rick Porcello‘s name. A magical season by Porcello in 2016 has not been forgotten and the Boston Red Sox hope he can regain the success in 2018.

The righty labored through much of 2017, but in turning things around Porcello doesn’t have to go as far as you might think.

A bleak beginning to the season last year was not exactly the follow up expected from an award-winning season. In a blink of an eye, it was July, Porcello was 4-14 and one wondered if 2016 was one gigantic fluke.

Numbers can sometimes be misleading, especially when it comes to Porcello. In 2016, he was backed by one of the best offenses in the game. A season later, the combination of Porcello’s regression and a struggling offense led to the rough start.

The month of July found Porcello posting a 3.06 ERA and pitching two complete games. He pitched the best he had all season and ended with an 0-4 record for the month.

Down the stretch, Porcello was much better in the win column. He posted a 7-3 record for the Red Sox in August and September. Home runs were still an issue — he gave up 38 on the season — but he was pitching better.

Porcello finished 2017 with an 11-17 record and a 4.65 ERA. He managed to strikeout 181 in 203 innings, but also allowed 236 hits.

This was all after a 2016 in which Porcello went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA.

What does that all mean for 2018? While a dominating season like 2016 is somewhat of an anomaly in his career, Porcello should improve on 2017’s numbers.

Sharpening the mental skills in 2018

Porcello appears to be on track to be the team’s fourth starter, breaking up the string of left-handers populating the rotation of the Boston Red Sox.

One thing to be on the lookout for — an item Porcello has specifically talked about — is the state of his mental outlook. So much of a baseball game involves staying mentally fine-tuned, especially when toeing the rubber.

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If anything, Porcello should take a page out of the book of Greg Maddux. Locating pitches against batters, instead of trying to overpower them, could play to Porcello’s advantage. When it’s working, his changeup is one of the best in the league and it would be nice to see a more precise Porcello.

2018 will hopefully see improvement by Porcello. I’m not expecting a 22-win season, but rather 14 to 15 wins. This number would be sufficient and closer to his career averages. Any total higher than this — Chris Sale, David Price and Drew Pomeranz are also meeting expectations — would be gravy.

And maybe see about getting Porcello more road games, if last season were any indication. At Fenway, the righty was 7-11 with a 5.43 ERA (compared to 4-6 with a 3.67 ERA on the road).

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As long as he keeps his ERA at 4.00 or under while not allowing more than 25 home runs, Porcello will be right back where the Red Sox need him to be. Maybe it won’t translate to more awards, but for Boston, a high-performing Porcello means their rotation will be one of the best in the league.