Can you give a pitcher a mulligan for a bad season?

Of course not. Yet Rick Porcello might be worthy of one. He struggled in 2015, his first year with the Boston Red Sox. His 9-15 record and 4.92 ERA were hardly worthy of the four-year, $82.5 million contract he signed after arriving in Boston via trade. He was being paid like an ace, but certainly wasn’t pitching like one.

Sometimes, he admits now, it takes a year to truly get comfortable with a new team when you’ve signed a big-money contract.

“I can’t necessarily put a finger on why you come to a new city (and struggle),” Porcello told me during an appearance on NESN over the weekend. “You’re trying to put your best foot forward and first impressions are big. Sometimes, you can try to do too much and it has a negative effect on you.”

Porcello has gotten over that effect. It’s safe to say he feels at home at Fenway. After Sunday’s win over the Diamondbacks, he is the first Sox pitcher in 60 years to start a season 12-0 at home.

“This second year has been great,” said Porcello. “Coming into spring training I felt very confident, very comfortable with my surroundings and everything like that. I was able to just focus on work, going out there and executing pitches and trying to get guys out.”

How invaluable has Porcello been to the 2016 Red Sox? Boston is 18-6 when he starts a game. They are 47-47 in games started by anyone else. It’s not an exaggeration to say the Sox wouldn’t be holding onto a playoff spot without him.

The Red Sox know how valuable Porcello is to their team. They expect others to keep that in mind when the Cy Young voting comes around at the end of the season.

“He’s been so focused, so process-oriented, that when we look up towards the end of September he’ll be in the conversation,” said Manager John Farrell. “We’ve got that much confidence in him. He takes care of himself in great fashion. He’s ultra-prepared. To think that these results are all of a sudden going to shift in another direction, I’d be surprised.”

Needless to say, Porcello is not thinking about postseason awards. He’s thinking about getting to the postseason. He’s been there three times, all with the Tigers. He believes he’ll get there again with this group, knowing they’ve got to battle the dog days of August first.

“We’re right in the thick of things,” said Porcello. “We’ve got a couple tough road trips coming up that we’re really going to get tested with. We’ve got to bear down in those moments. You get to that point in the season where you’ve got to rise to the occasion.

“We’ve got guys that are banged up a little bit and different things that are going on and some challenges they’re encountering. Those are things you have to overcome. You have to embrace those challenges and be willing to put the work in and step up and sacrifice to achieve our goals.”

A year ago, most fans thought the Porcello contract was one of the worst of the Ben Cherington era. Now he’s an invaluable part of the team. What a difference a year makes.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.