Regardless of the situation, Garrett Whitlock continues to get outs for the Red Sox on a consistent basis.
The latest instance of that came in Wednesday’s contest against the Mets, when the rookie right-hander was deployed in the sixth inning of a game the Sox had a one-run lead in.
Needing all of 31 pitches, Whitlock retired six of the eight batters he faced while striking out four over the course of two scoreless frames of relief in the sixth and seventh. He later picked up his third hold of the season.
Since making his major-league debut on April 4, the 24-year-old has yet to allow a run on just six hits and two walks to go along with 18 strikeouts over six outings and 13 1/3 innings pitched out of the bullpen.
“He keeps growing. He keeps getting better,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Whitlock on Thursday. “Yesterday was fun to watch. 1-0 game in New York, and to give us six outs where we were bullpen-wise, it was amazing. So he keeps growing, he keeps learning, he keeps getting better. And he’s an important piece of our bullpen.”
Prior to being selected by the Red Sox from the Yankees in last December’s Rule 5 Draft, Whitlock had not pitched above the Double-A level and had last pitched in a minor-league game in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery that summer.
In his three seasons as a Yankees minor-leaguer, the 2017 18th-round draft pick never once swung a bat, but he nearly had to do so on Wednesday in a National League ballpark.
Cora asked Whitlock how many hits he had in the minor-leagues because his spot was coming up in the Sox’ lineup. The righty told him he had zero.
“And I was like, ‘Well, you better be ready. You might have to hit in the big-leagues,'” recalled Cora. Whitlock responded with a simple, “Whatever you need.”
To say Cora and the rest of the Red Sox brass have been impressed with Whitlock to this point would probably be an understatement. Not only is the Georgia native, who Cora described as “a cool individual,” dazzling while on the mound. He is making positive impressions off the field as well.
“He just goes about his business,” said Cora. “He trusts his stuff. He has a clean delivery. He throws a lot of strikes. And the stuff is that good. You saw it yesterday. That two-seamer in to [Jonathan] Villar, that was really good. We talked about it the first week. You guys asked me, ‘Who caught your attention? ‘ It was him. From what he does in the bullpens to the weight room to the training room — even carrying the beer on the plane. It’s kind of like perfect. Everything’s so structured. So we’ve got a good one.”
Per Baseball Savant, Whitlock currently ranks in the 98th percentile in expected weighted on-base average, the 98th percentile in expected ERA, the 89th percentile in expected batting average, the 93rd percentile in expected slugging percentage, the 93rd percentile in strikeout rate, and the 90th percentile in chase rate.
In simpler terms, he has done an effective job of mixing his sinker, changeup, four-seam fastball, and slider thus far.
“He’s competing since day one in spring training,” Cora said. “It wasn’t a given that he was going to make the team. Since day one, he’s been competing. He never showed hesitation about his work or what we were preaching to him. He just keeps going and it’s fun to watch. In an era that everybody puts pressure on people and everybody’s in the spotlight and everybody knows what you are doing because of social media, he’s just the same Garrett as when we got to spring training February 11.”
Whitlock, who turns 25 in June, would be under team control with the Red Sox through 2026 if he sticks on the club’s big-league roster for the remainder of the season.
(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: David Berding/Getty Images)