Boston Red Sox: Should Garrett Whitlock be in the starting rotation?

Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Garrett Whitlock (72) Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Garrett Whitlock (72) Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox have started slowly out of the gate once again this season and a question can be asked about whether former Rule 5 draft pick (arguably the best move by Chaim Bloom in his tenure as Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer) Garrett Whitlock be inserted into the starting rotation?

The young phenom has picked up right where he left off in 2021. He’s been great. Whitlock is sporting a 1.42 ERA in two games so far with six strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work as a reliever.

The operative phrase here is, “as a reliever”. Of course, in 2021 “as a reliever”, the 25-year-old Whitlock sported an 8-4 record with a 1.96 ERA. That’s almost as good as it gets these days in baseball. So let’s take a look at why it may behoove the team to move Whitlock into a starting role.

Boston Red Sox Garrett Whitlock was a starting pitcher in the minors

Whitlock was a starter for most of his minor league career after being drafted by the New York Yankees, who wound up losing Whitlock to the Sox in the Rule 5 draft. His last season starting was 2019 when he started 14 games.

Whitlock then missed the entire 2020 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, which certainly contributed to his availability to Boston. Yet now that he is clearly fully recovered from that ailment, is it time to add him to the starting rotation?

The starters have had mixed results early on. Nathan Eovaldi, the staff ace has a 4.50 ERA in his first two starts. Rich Hill sits at 6.23 after one start, while Michael Wacha has done better with a 2.08 ERA in one start.The worst of the bunch has been Nick Pivetta with a 9.39 ERA with two losses in two starts.

Those are meager statistics on which to base a determination to add your best reliever to the starting mix. Yet, would it really be premature, or just a step towards the inevitable as Whitlock continues to mature and excel as a pitcher?

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Pivetta’s struggles may provide Bloom and manager Alex Cora with the justification (or excuse if more appropriate) to start Whitlock to see if this more prominent role is where he should ultimately be.

In addition, it would allow Pivetta to hopefully get back onto a track similar to last season by working out his difficulties in a less stressful and demanding role from the pen.

The downside to moving Garrett Whitlock to the Boston Red Sox starting rotation

Moving Whitlock to the rotation if he continues to pitch as he has been would seem to have little downside. A great addition to the rotation is never a bad thing. Whitlock right now could probably easily handle five innings without much difficulty.

He could then be stretched out to seven over maybe five or six weeks. There’d be no problem welcoming him there, except for opposing lineups, that is. There’d be no joy in many opponents’ Mudvilles seeing Whitlock whiffing even more batters for longer in every appearence.

Yet, there is one major downside that balances the equation somewhat. The opportunity cost of Whitlock’s starting means he can’t be used as a lockdown reliever.

So, you may win in the rotation, but lose the more frequent availability of arguably your most effective pitcher in the balance. It’s not an easy decision to make. There are pros and cons to balance. But that’s why Bloom and Cora get paid the big bucks, as they say.

Next. 3 takeaways from the Sox opening slate of games. dark

Pivetta’s success or lack thereof over the next two or three starts might make the decision for the Boston Red Sox easier if he continues to falter. If he does and Whitlock pitches as he has been in a starting role, he may never see that bullpen during a game again. He’s that good. We’ll see. What role do you think he should hold down?