Garrett Whitlock’s major league debut on the mound came a bit earlier than expected.
With the Red Sox already trailing by 10 runs in what eventually finished as an 11-3 Orioles win Sunday, the Sox were desperately searching for a way out of the top of the third inning. Starter Garrett Richards left the game without retiring a batter in the third and manager Alex Cora then went to Josh Taylor with the bases loaded. Taylor recorded two outs in the frame, but by the time that happened, seven more runs had scored.
That’s when Cora called on Whitlock, who went on to have an impressive outing in an otherwise forgettable game and series for the Red Sox.
Whitlock got the Red Sox out of that third-inning jam, inducing Maikel Franco to fly out to Kiké Hernández in center. Whitlock pitched the next three innings (3⅓ in total), allowing no runs and just three hits while striking out five. For him, personally, it was a game he will remember.
“It was definitely a dream come true,” Whitlock said. “And it was an honor to be wearing the Red Sox name making that dream come true.”
Whitlock’s road to the majors took its turns, and was marred by injuries as he tried to navigate his way through the New York Yankees system. He never played above Double A with the Yankees and was a Rule 5 draft pick by the Red Sox last offseason. The 25-year-old Whitlock turned heads during Sox camp, pitching nine innings, striking out 12 and yielding just one run, which earned him a spot on the Opening Day roster. He carried that spring success over to Sunday.
“I mean, that was the highlight of the day,” Cora said. “The positive of the day. He did an amazing job. He was good pounding the strike zone. He used his fastball up. Mixed up his offspeed pitches. He was fun to watch.”
Whitlock’s go-to pitch is his sinker. He used it 44 times Sunday, pounding the zone and suffocating Orioles hitters.
“It’s getting outs,” Whitlock said. “So hopefully it continues to do that.”
Devers gets a break
Rafael Devers got an off day Sunday and is expected to return to the lineup Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays. Devers has struggled in the field at times, particularly with his throws. On Opening Day, Devers bounced two throws to Bobby Dalbec that the first baseman had to scoop out of the dirt. Then Saturday during the top of the fourth inning, Devers committed a throwing error on a potential force out at second, which ultimately led to the Orioles scoring two runs.
Devers’s defense at third is a big question mark. If he continues to struggle there moving forward, the club might have to look into finding him a new position. Yet the Sox and Cora still believe Devers has the potential to handle third.
“Whoever says that he needs to work on defense, they should join us in the mornings, and in the afternoons,” Cora said. “He puts in the work. I do believe he can play the position, he has a good arm. He has good feet. So we’ll keep working out. I’ll keep working with him.”
Devers led all major league players with 14 errors last season. Cora intimated the fielding miscues tend to weigh on Devers more than anything.
“That’s something we talked about,” Cora said. “ ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself.’ That’s the most important thing. And he realizes it. I think Rafi would rather go 0 for 4 with four strikeouts and make all the plays at third base.”
Róndon signs on
The Red Sox signed righthander Héctor Róndon to a minor league deal and added him to the alternate training site roster. Yairo Muñoz was placed on the minor league injured list retroactive to April 2. He will receive a prorated $1 million salary if he’s called up . . . The Red Sox will make a decision this week on whether Eduardo Rodriguez (dead arm) will rejoin the rotation.