Porcello pitches in relief; Verlander unavailable
Leyland insists staff ace is out of commission for rest of ALCS
ARLINGTON -- Manager Jim Leyland said the Tigers could call upon a starter if they needed relief help before the seventh inning in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Rangers. However, that starter wasn't going to be Justin Verlander.
Instead, Rick Porcello was on watch in Detroit's bullpen if Leyland needed to bridge innings between starter Max Scherzer and what is now a late-inning trio of lefty Phil Coke, setup man Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde.
Scherzer lasted just 2 1/3 innings, leaving with the bases loaded in the third in favor of Daniel Schlereth, who allowed a two-run single to David Murphy. Leyland then called upon Porcello, who allowed two hits and issued an intentional walk while recording just one out. He was lifted after giving up a two-run double to Michael Young.
Porcello pitched two scoreless innings out of the bullpen in Game 1 of the ALCS last Saturday after two fifth-inning rain delays ended Verlander's start. Porcello bounced back in turn to deliver 6 2/3 innings with two earned runs in his Game 4 start Wednesday at Comerica Park.
The Tigers lost both games, but the 22-year-old sinkerballer showed a knack for keeping Rangers hitters off-balance with a good two-seam fastball and a slider that looked like the best he has ever thrown.
"I can't tell you how I'm going to use him," Leyland said Saturday afternoon. "It's a feel. As the game goes on, you see what is developing. You might need a ground ball to get a double play and you might use him. I can't tell you exactly how the game is going to play out."
Leyland said on the off-day Friday that he could use Porcello in a possible Game 7, but "probably not" in Game 6. He made that judgment, he said Saturday, before checking with Porcello and finding out that he felt good after throwing his side session Friday at Comerica Park.
"I didn't really change my mind," Leyland said. "I just got ahead of myself a little bit, because I hadn't seen him yet. And I saw him at the ballpark, and he was going to work out a little bit, throw a little bit. I was already done [with the teleconference] by the time I realized that he felt great and would be able to go tonight.
"I will use Porcello tonight, or tomorrow."
Just as definitively, Leyland said he will not use Verlander, who threw 133 pitches over 7 1/3 innings in Thursday's Game 5.
"If you see Verlander pitch again this year, it will be a good thing, because we'll be in the World Series," Leyland said. "And if we don't go on, he threw his last pitch for the season. If we go on -- obviously, if we're fortunate enough to go on -- he would pitch Game 1 of the World Series. But you will not see Verlander out of the bullpen tomorrow."