It appears as though Garrett Whitlock has once again obtained the uniform number he has long yearned for.
Whitlock, who wore No. 72 in his first two seasons with the Red Sox, is now listed as No. 22 on the club’s 40-man roster, per MLB.com. The right-hander initially planned on changing his number after his rookie year, but he gave up the No. 22 after Derek Holland — who signed a minor-league deal with Boston in March — asked for it in spring training.
Holland did not make the Sox’ Opening Day roster out of camp and was granted his release in May. The No. 22 then went unclaimed until veteran outfielder Tommy Pham elected to wear it after being acquired from the Reds in early August.
Pham batted just .234/.298/.374 in 53 games with the Red Sox and became a free agent earlier this month after his mutual option was declined earlier this month. That gave Whitlock the opportunity to re-claim the number and the righty has since taken advantage of it.
Whitlock grew up a fan of longtime big-league starter Rick Porcello, who donned the No. 22 in his five seasons with the Red Sox from 2015-2019. In a conversation with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings last October, Whitlock described Porcello as his “favorite pitcher ever.”
Growing up in Georgia, Whitlock tried to watch as many Tigers and Red Sox games as possible when Porcello was on the mound. He was a sophomore at the University of Alabama at Birmingham when Porcello won the American League Cy Young Award in 2016.
After coming over from the Yankees to the Red Sox in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, Whitlock gained an even greater respect for Porcello as teammates told him about the kind of leader he was during his time in Boston. Those same teammates encouraged Whitlock to switch to the No. 22, but Whitlock would only do so if he received permission from Porcello himself.
“The only way I’m going to change my number is if Porcello tells me, in person, ‘It’s OK for you to be 22,” Whitlock told Jennings. “And the only other number would be 48, because that’s what he was in Detroit. So, those are the only numbers I really care about that I would do. But I don’t want to taint his number. I don’t want to do anything like that, so I would only do it with his permission.”
Porcello, as it turns out, watched Whitlock from afar in 2021 and came away impressed with what he saw from the then-rookie hurler. The 12-year veteran told Jennings he wanted Whitlock to take the No. 22 since “he would do nothing but increase the value” of it.
“That number needs some steady success like he’s doing,” said Porcello. “I would love to see him wear it. He’s his own guy, too. He’s going to have his own success and carve his own path. Whatever he wants, but a number, they’re there to be worn. I hope I’ll get a chance to see him and tell him to wear it.”
While Whitlock and Porcello have yet to meet in-person, Jennings’ article was enough for Whitlock to first make the switch in the spring. It may have taken longer than expected thanks to some unique circumstances, but the 26-year-old will now have the chance to pay homage to his favorite pitcher t0 an even greater extent. He already wore three-quarter sleeves and bent the bill of his cap as a tribute to Porcello.
“Hopefully I can do No. 22 proud by him,” Whitlock told MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo back in March. “He pitched like a blue-collar guy. He pitched. He didn’t just try to throw hard. He hated walks and I loved that aspect, too. He just wanted to win. Whatever the outcome was or whatever happens, I’m going to grind it out, be a workhorse and get the W and try to put up as many innings I can in a year. I just loved that fact so that’s what I want to aspire to be.”
Whitlock has primarily been used as a reliever through the first two years of his major-league career. He made nine starts from April 23-June 7 this past season and posted a 4.15 ERA with 38 strikeouts to nine walks over 39 innings of work. The Red Sox are now planning on using Whitlock as a full-time starter heading into the 2023 campaign. This has seemingly always been the plan since Whitlock was a rotation prospect in his time with the Yankees organization and was signed to a four-year, $18.75 million contract extension in April that includes significant incentive clauses based on the number of innings he pitches moving forward.
Whitlock’s 2022 season was cut short due to a right hip impingement that ultimately required arthroscopic surgery in September. He told The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey last week that his rehab is going well and he expects to be fully ready for spring training when pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers in February.
(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)