Porcello was chosen to be the Red Sox's Opening Day starting pitcher against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 3 at Fenway Park, manager John Farrell said Wednesday. The decision was made at the beginning of spring training, according to Farrell, and isn't related to the strained left elbow that will almost certainly land 2016 Opening Day starter David Price on the disabled list when the season opens.
"We had three candidates that were certainly worthy and capable," Farrell said, a nod to Price and recently acquired ace lefty Chris Sale. "But I think there's a lot to be said for the year Rick has had previous, the leader that he's become on our team and the dependable pitcher that he is."
Porcello, who will be opposite Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, is the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner after going 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA in a career-high 223 innings over 33 starts last season. The Red Sox were able to line up their rotation before the Division Series against the Cleveland Indians, and Porcello got the Game 1 nod over Price.
Farrell said he told Porcello on the first day of camp that, health permitting, he would get the ball before Price or Sale. It helped too that Price and Sale offered their offseason endorsements for Porcello even though he hasn't pitched on Opening Day in any of his eight previous major league seasons.
"If I had to pick -- and my opinion means absolutely nothing -- out of respect, you've got to go with Porcello," Sale said in January. "He was the best pitcher in the league last year. How do you deny that?"
Last month, Price added: "If I have a vote, I'm voting for Rick. He earned it. Every team I've ever been on, that's the way it kind of works."
Porcello, 28, spent the first six years of his career in the shadows of Cy Young-winning aces Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer with the Detroit Tigers. But in addition to having the best season of his career last year, he emerged as a team leader, according to Farrell, who routinely lauds Porcello for his work ethic and diligence in studying opposing hitters and developing a game plan for each start.
"He was willing to share his information, share his expectations for all of us, and he was more readily willing to speak his mind among the group in a professional way," Farrell said. "But when it comes right down to being competitive in certain spots, if there's a game where maybe things aren't going the way it should be, he wasn't reluctant to talk to a guy about it."
Sale is lined up to start the season's second game on April 5. In the likely absence of Price, Farrell said the Red Sox have not yet determined the order of the other three starters: left-handers Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz, and knuckleballer Steven Wright.