When he signed his four-year, $7.25 million deal with the Detroit Tigers last season, most figured Rick Porcello's next move would be to sign with a trading card company. Autographed cards would be on their way soon.
But it didn't happen that way. Porcello didn't want to be rushed, and opted to wait until he was ready. That time has come, and the 20-year-old top prospect's first certified autograph cards will appear in Donruss products this year.
Porcello spends his days working out at the Lakeland Flying Tigers' complex, and his nights pitching for the team, charting pitches on his off-nights and taking online college courses – his choice and something he initiated.
As he prepared to sign his first autographs for Donruss, Porcello answered a few questions:
Q: Did you collect cards as a kid?
RP: I did, actually. I didn't get real serious about it, but I did have some cards and a collection. I knew the Donruss name.
Q: Who was your favorite player?
RP: When I was growing up, I was a big fan of Roger Clemens and all of his accomplishments. He was the main guy I followed growing up.
Q: Outside of the contract, how has your life changed since turning pro?
RP: Being away from my family and being away from home for an extended time has definitely been a big adjustment. And also, not going to school everyday, but going to the ballpark everyday and working out and preparing to play a game has been a big change for me, too.
Q: How do the FSL hitters differ from what you faced in high school?
RP: In a nutshell, they're much better hitters. And they are a lot tougher to strike out. I really have to make better pitches to get guys out down here. They're just smarter hitters overall – they won't swing at the breaking ball in the dirt or the fastball over their heads. They're pretty selective and they make you work to get them out.
Q: What are the demands on your time in a typical day?
RP: Three or four days after I pitch I have to come into the weight room around noon to work out. That's usually over by 2 and then I relax and get something to eat and stretching and batting practice starts at 3:45. The game starts at 7 and usually over by 10 o'clock. That's a typical day.
Q: Do you get a lot of autograph requests?
RP: Yeah, every day, it seems like there are a lot of autograph collectors down here. I don't know if it's the same people over and over again, but it seems like there are a lot of them. I usually try and sign as much as I can. If I'm coming out of a game and not in a great mood, I won't sign, but that's just because I've got to get some work in and I'm still focused on what I have to get done at the field. But I do try and sign as much as possible.
Q: What do you have to do at Lakeland – what do you want to accomplish – before moving up to Double-A?
RP: Really, improve all of my pitches and just get better overall in all aspects of the game. There's not one thing I can pinpoint, but my off-speed pitches have to get better and I need to throw more strikes. Overall, just play better.
Q: Is it unrealistic to suggest you could be a late 2009 call-up?
RP: (Laughing) Yeah, I think so. I still have a lot of work to do before I even start thinking about that.