In going about upgrading their pitching staff over the winter, one thing the Red Sox clearly targeted was versatility.
Looking past the additions of traditional starters such as Garrett Richards and Martin Perez and traditional relievers such as Adam Ottavino and Hirokazu Sawamura, two names that stand out in this particular category of pitcher are right-handers Garrett Whitlock and Matt Andriese.
Whitlock, 24, was acquired by Boston in the major-league phase of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft from the Yankees organization.
A former 18th-round draft selection of New York back in 2017 out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Whitlock comes into Red Sox camp having never pitched above the Double-A level. He also has not appeared in an organized minor-league game since undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2019.
Having said all that, the 6-foot-5, 190 lb. hurler out of Georgia does bring with him a lifetime 2.41 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 42 total appearances (38 starts) and 205 1/3 total innings pitched across four minor-league levels since 2017.
Equipped with a groundball-inducing pitch mix that consists of a mid-90s fastball, a low-80s slider, and a changeup (per Baseball America), Whitlock must make Boston’s Opening Day roster and remain on the major-league roster for the entirety of the season if the Sox do not want to offer him back to their division rivals.
With that in mind, the Red Sox will surely find a way to utilize Whitlock properly in 2021. His new manager, Alex Cora, already seems pretty high on him.
“Whitlock is a guy that I’ll be paying a lot of attention to,” Cora said Saturday when speaking with reporters via Zoom. “He plays the part. He threw a bullpen yesterday (Friday). It was very impressive. The most impressive thing about him is the way he acts. The way he takes care of his body and what he does. He’s a very quiet kid. He knows what he wants to do. I’m looking forward to see him pitch and see where he takes us.”
As for Andriese, the Red Sox signed the 31-year-old right-hander to a one-year, $1.85 million contract for the 2021 season back in December. The deal also includes a $3.5 million club option for 2022 or a $250,000 buyout is said option is declined.
Over the course of a six-year major-league career between the Rays, Diamondbacks, and Angels, Andriese owns a lifetime ERA of 4.57 and a lifetime FIP of 4.23 over 183 total outings — 50 of which were starts — and 460 2/4 innings of work dating back to 2015.
Like Whitlock, Andriese could carve out a role for himself as a swingman for the Sox in 2021.
At the time his signing was made official over the winter, the California native said he believed his role with Boston going into the spring would be to compete for a starting rotation spot, but he also acknowledged that “being in the bullpen is also an option to help the team.”
Going off the notion that he is flexible with his role, Cora said Tuesday that the Red Sox would stretch Andriese out as a starter this spring, but have him ready to do anything once the season begins in April.
“He’s a good pitcher. Good stuff, good fastball, good changeup,” said Cora in regards to the 6-foot-2, 215 lb. hurler. “Actually today, me and Christian [Vazquez] were talking about him. Important role. We’re going to stretch him as a starter and see where we go throughout spring training. He’ll be ready to do anything. He’ll be our utility guy in the pitching staff, and you need those guys. We saw it in ’18, we saw it in ’19 when it didn’t work. Guys like that, they save bullpens, they save the rotation, they help the manager a lot to get some sleep at night. He’s been good.”
Cora added that he believed Andriese proved to be a valuable member of the Angels’ pitching staff last year, which is evident by the fact that he posted a 1.65 ERA and .373 OPS against over his final 10 relief appearances and 16 1/3 innings pitched of the season.
“Besides that, great teammate. Puts work in the weight room. Very smart about pitching,” Cora said. “Guys like that, they’re going to make us better.”
(Picture of Matt Andriese: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)