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Offseason work pays off for Porcello in debut

Right-hander fans four, holds Astros scoreless in two frames; Hanley hits first spring homer
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- If you're looking for a comeback candidate with the Red Sox, Rick Porcello is one to watch closely this spring.

The righty had his familiar sink back in his Grapefruit League debut on Wednesday against the Astros, and he had the results (two innings, two hits, no runs, four strikeouts) to show for it in Boston's 10-5 loss to the Astros.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- If you're looking for a comeback candidate with the Red Sox, Rick Porcello is one to watch closely this spring.

The righty had his familiar sink back in his Grapefruit League debut on Wednesday against the Astros, and he had the results (two innings, two hits, no runs, four strikeouts) to show for it in Boston's 10-5 loss to the Astros.

View Full Game Coverage

"I felt pretty good. A couple of guys hit the ball on the ground," said Porcello. "Honestly, the pitch to [Carlos] Correa, I know it's early, but it was in the middle of the plate and he beat it into the ground. That's decent feedback as far as the ball sinking. I was able to command some quality strikes. It was a good first day."

Video: BOS@HOU: Porcello on LeVangie, gaining confidence

Two years ago, Porcello won the American League Cy Young Award. Last year, he grinded his way through the season and it wasn't always pretty, as he went 11-17 with a 4.65 ERA and allowed 38 home runs.

For Porcello, it all comes down to how well he can command the sinker and separate the depth from his four-seamer.

"I think the biggest thing is getting back to an aggressive mentality with the sinker, the two-seam fastball and driving that downhill," Porcello said.

"Job's not done, and I have to maintain that every time I take the ball, but just throwing it with conviction again and not worrying about if a guy hits it or you give up a homer and being stubborn with it. That's kind of my bread and butter, that's kind of my identity and I'm sticking with it."

Porcello wouldn't expect his sinker to just magically re-appear. He has done a lot of mechanical work this spring with pitching coach Dana LeVangie, and he even had a couple of tutorials with former Red Sox All-Star sinkerballer Derek Lowe.

"I think [Lowe] definitely helped," Porcello said. "We talked a lot about the mentality of being a sinkerballer and all that sort of stuff, and he reminded me of some things that I kind of forgot, I guess. So the combination of him and Dana and some other guys that have been helping, Pedro [Martinez], everybody's been extremely beneficial, so I thank them for taking the time to help out."

Video: BOS@HOU: Hanley hits first home run of the spring

Hanley launches first of spring

Speaking of comeback candidates, Hanley Ramirez continues to encourage this spring. The slugger came in to camp in excellent shape, and he has been moving around well at first base. On Thursday, he launched his first home run of Spring Training, a rocket to center.

Before the game, Ramirez quipped to reporters in the dugout that he would be a 30-30 player this season. Though it's doubtful Ramirez is going to be given the opportunity to steal 30 bases or anywhere close to it -- he had one last year -- it is an encouraging sign when he is talking like that.

"I just have to work on timing right now and [swing] effortless, trying not to think too much and hit homers," Ramirez said.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Blake rakes

Blake Swihart smashed his fourth double of Spring Training while serving as the designated hitter. The switch-hitter is 6-for-15 in Grapefruit League action.

Swihart, out of options, is all but assured a spot on the roster, but he is making a bid for more playing time.

Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon are projected as the two catchers, with Swihart offering the ability to catch in a super-utility role.

Swihart would love to put himself more into the catching mix. Does he think it's realistic?

"We'll see," Swihart said. "The job's not done. I'll let you know that at the end of Spring Training."

J.D. talks shop with Papi

While the Red Sox were on the other side of the state playing the Astros, recently acquired slugger J.D. Martinez was absorbing everything he could from retired star David Ortiz during batting practice at JetBlue Park.

"That's why I was sitting there during BP, the whole BP, I was like, 'Let me just sit by him and just hear him.' Because you never know," Martinez told reporters in Fort Myers, Fla. "You might talk for 40 minutes there, and there might be one thing you always remember. It was cool.

"We were just talking baseball. Just talking shop. Just like sitting down here with [Dustin Pedroia] talking shop."

Up next

Drew Pomeranz makes his Grapefruit League debut in Friday's 1:05 p.m. ET road game against the Cardinals on MLB.TV. Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers will be in the lineup for the Red Sox.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Rick Porcello