New Mets Pitcher, New Jersey native and 2016 AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, who joined the club in December as part of a one-year free agent deal and a swing after winning a title with the Red Sox in 2018 for some questions and answers with contributor Steve Serby.
Q: What do you think of when you think of Pete Alonso?
A: Big guy with a lot of pop (laughs).
Q: Jeff McNeil?
A: Scrappy … seems to do anything to win and he's an extremely talented hit man on the plate.
Q: Jacob deGrom?
A: Ace. About as good as I've ever seen it on the hill.
Q: Noah Syndergaard?
A: (laughs) Ace No. 2. He has the presence, the figure and the build and the power arm repertoire. Just like Jake was the dominant ace in his career, [Syndergaard] In any case, he has the potential to put a few Cy Young in his trophy case.
Q: Marcus Stroman?
A: I see a winner for me. He watched him play when he was with Toronto and went up against him when I was with Boston. He went out and did everything to win ball games and guys out, he gave it all.
Q: Steven Matz?
A: I think it's the best way to adopt yourself. I look forward to seeing him all season.
Q: Rick Porcello?
A: A veteran with a lot of potential and a chip on his shoulder who can prove something this year.
Q: Why do you have a chip on your shoulder?
A: More like an internal chip on my shoulder, not a chip on my shoulder in relation to anyone else. More than that, I am not happy with my performance last year and I am happy and determined to change that and show that I am still a very good and capable pitcher in this league and can do 33, 34 starts can.
Q: Could you imagine going back to your Cy Young form?
A: Yes, I don't understand why not. I did it once.
Q: You said you put too much pressure on yourself in your first year in Boston. Why don't you put too much pressure on yourself now in New York?
A: Well, at some point you have to try to learn (giggle) from the mistakes. This is a large city with a large fan base. There are some similarities in terms of the attention of sports teams in cities like Boston, New York, but more importantly, I don't have to put them to be the best version of myself and give our ball club a chance Winning day to put pressure on myself and I have to relax and go out and just put my game up and fit into the role that I fit into this team so I help us win.
Q: What do you think of your new manager Luis Rojas?
A: Very balanced, great presence for him and I look forward to playing for him in 2020. I've heard a lot of great things and all my experiences, interactions up to this point have been nothing short of it.
Q: What do you remember about a healthy Yoenis Cespedes?
A: I remember that [ALDS] Playoffs in 2012 and 2013, when I was in Detroit, we both played in Oakland. Both series went to game 5 and I honestly don't know that anyone other than Cespedes got a hit. … We had great teams at that time, we had a great offensive and a great pitching staff, and it was the reason why we played five games both times. We tried to throw him around, we tried to bounce breaking balls, he hit those in the gap. … He changed the game aggressively.
Q: Describe your mentality.
A: Competitors … I never try to give up … I just think of the responsibility to help our team win, to be mentally and physically prepared to perform pitches.
Question: "What do you think about the theft of signs and how is your former Red Sox manager Alex Cora fired because of it?"
A: I can't speak to the Astros for anything, I wasn't there and frankly I can't speak much about the Red Sox, I don't have much opinion about it. It was fun for Alex to play for him, he looked after everyone in our ball club, I had a great relationship with him and for him as a person. I am definitely sad for him that he will no longer lead the Red Sox. It's just an unfortunate situation and I wish him all the best.
Q: How did you react when you found out that the Red Sox were involved?
A: My immediate reaction was that I would like to hear and see more before you start saying that something is going on with us and whatever happened does not happen to every other team in the league. … My immediate reaction to such things is that I want to see and hear more about the situation before I judge it.
Q: Do you think stealing signs was common in the big leagues?
A: I have no idea. I only know that each team has a certain technology that they can access during the game.
Q: Describe the rivalry between Yankees and Red Sox.
A: You definitely feel a surge in energy levels when you are at Yankee Stadium and the Yankees are at Fenway Park and you are part of this rivalry.
Q: What made it possible for you to win the Cy Young Award with the Red Sox in 2016?
A: Really a lot of different things. Had a great team behind me, shot a lot of runs, played a great defense. I played a role, I had confidence, I had a great feeling on the hill. I guess the momentum of the pitching and we fought for a place in the playoffs and all of these things increased my game.
Q: What worked specifically for you or what adjustments did you make this year?
A: Just hit spots and switch the pitches. I think mechanically I was in a good place, mentally I was in a good place. I was able to keep the boys off balance as the season continued and my confidence and momentum to throw the ball well increased and I just kept feeding it and ended up having a great year.
Q: What did you think of the Mookie Betts trade with the Dodgers?
ON: [Dang]I have to look him in the face. … Just because he is present and who he is, it is always shocking to see that he is being traded.
Q: What were your feelings when you heard the tragic news from Kobe Bryant?
A: I hope and wish that it is not true in the first place. Then your thoughts immediately go to his family and you hope that in such a difficult time you can find some strength and pull it through. It is the worst nightmare of all. You can't imagine losing a family member like this. It made him human for me … just kind of an icon, and sometimes you don't see the personal, human side of him, but that was the part that hit me the most was feeling pain for his family and them then wish the best anyway, they can go through a time like this.
Q: Who are athletes in other sports that you admire?
A: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Tiger Woods and Tom Brady.
Q: You played shortstop before you played in high school. Who were your favorite shortstops and pitchers?
Q: I loved Al Leiter – I was a Mets fan. Someone on the Mets from 1996 to 2005 or 2006 that I was a big fan of. John Franco, Al Leiter, the list goes on. I've also watched the Mets through the years when Rey Ordonez was the short stop there. I heard a rumor that every time he made a mistake, he cut his glove and got a new one. It's just one of those fun, superstitious things about baseball that I don't know why I took care of it. I loved that too. I should hate the Yankees and hate Derek Jeter, but basically he was perhaps one of my greatest role models as a ball player, even though he was wearing Yankee pinstripes. I also liked to watch Omar Vizquel. The pieces he could make seemed like no one else could get these balls, and he threw boys out.
Q: Why are most of your family members Yankees fans and you were a Mets fan?
A: I don't know. I am the middle child, I think I needed attention. I have no idea why it happened that way. My older and younger brothers were for the Indians because of my grandfather [Sam Dente] played for her in the ’54 World Series.
A: If things go well, I'll do what I did. If things are not going well, start changing small routines over the course of your days to try to turn karma in a different direction.
Q: What are your favorite New Jersey things?
A: Taylor ham, egg and cheese breakfast rolls. … there is this fishmonger on Route 22 in Lebanon, Metropolitan Seafood. Usually our family fishes on Friday evenings and I like going to the fish market to find out what we'll have that night, and then sometimes I prepare it, sometimes my brother prepares it.
Q: What was Hurricane Sandy like for you?
A: I was at home at the time and when I saw the devastation that caused many people in the surrounding areas on the Jersey Shore, in New York and in some of these coastal cities, they were hit really hard. And inland, too, it wasn't just the coast. How can it not be an emotional matter for you when you see what people have to fight and climb back on?
"How was Seton Hall Preps baseball coach Mike Sheppard Jr.?"
A: Mentor … great high school baseball coach.
Question: "You once showed a perfect game in Seton Hall Prep."
A: County, I think semifinals, we were on a pitch in Verona, New Jersey. It's funny, I didn't think about it at the time, but the Detroit Tiger Scout, David Chad, who designed me was the only game he saw me throw in high school all spring. He said he almost took the ball from my hand before I went up the hill as I warmed up. It's like a little track on the side, it was made of gravel, and we basically put our little bullpen there, there is no hill (giggle), and I warmed up there. He didn't want anything to happen or get hurt or anything, so he freaked out just because we were preparing for the game. … I didn't really know I had it until the sixth or seventh inning, some of my friends told me.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Ted Williams, Teddy Roosevelt and Frank Sinatra. … Ted Williams, first of all one of the best hitters, one of the best ball players of all time, and just like me, he was enthusiastic about fly fishing. Teddy Roosevelt, a great nature lover, read some of the books he wrote. Frank Sinatra, only he is a legendary Italian, would like to eat with him.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: "A Bronx story."
Q: Favorite actor?
A: James Gandolfini.
Q: Favorite singer / entertainer?
A: Bruce Springsteen.
Q: Favorite food?
A: My mother's meatballs and sauce.
Q: Describe the feeling of winning the 2018 World Series.
A: Better than I could ever imagine. Everyone talks about it, you dream of it as a small child. To be honest, I've only reenacted World Series scenarios. It was incredible to get there and win it and feel like I could hold the trophy. I think the best thing was probably that I could be there with my father and family members. You see the sacrifices they made as something in return for them, all the long days that he comes home from work and takes me to practice.
Q: What drives you now?
A: I love the game, I am extremely passionate about the game, I am extremely passionate about the competition. I feel like I can be much better and have room to do better, and then that will be the will to win. This ball club we have has a legitimate shot on the pitches. All of these things together still drive me.
Question: "Why do you think this team has a legitimate starting signal?"
A: If you just look at the squad from top to bottom, this is a good ball club with not many holes. And then we have a very strong pitching stick with a ton of weapons. All of these things add up on paper, and then I was really impressed with how they ended the season last year. You look at the ups and downs that each team goes through in a season, and some teams blur, others react and strike back, and that team has struck back the entire second half because it watched them from a distance last year. Unfortunately, some games were neglected, but for me that's the only intangible and great feature of a winning team that you need. I think everyone is ready to take the next step.
Q: What is a message to Mets fans about Rick Porcello and the Mets?
A: We will go out there and play our game as hard as we can play it. We will offer you a good show every night. I'm not a guy who gives up or gives in. We'll fight to the end and from my seat we have a ball club that will make it to the end. So enjoy the ride and hopefully we'll see you first in September and in the playoffs.