Garrett Whitlock’s pronounced role with the Red Sox continues to take shape.
Whitlock has become a priority for the Sox as a result of how well he’s thrown the ball this year. In 6⅓ innings, he has fanned nine, allowing just three hits and zero runs. Whitlock hasn’t pitched since last Wednesday because the Red Sox want to stretch him out to two or three innings.
“As you know, this guy is important for us right now,” manager Alex Cora said before Sunday’s doubleheader, in which the Red Sox were swept by the White Sox. “He’s important for the future. Right now obviously he’s coming out of the bullpen. We will try to find a spot where we can stretch him out. He can go two or three innings like Matt [Andriese] did Saturday. Right now it seems like we’re playing a lot of close games.”
Whitlock’s sinker and changeup have smothered hitters since the start of spring training. The Rule 5 draft pick plucked from the Yankees this past offseason has entered his name into the conversation as a potential starter. For now, though, it’s about the Sox continuing to mold and develop Whitlock.
Before this season, Whitlock had never pitched above Double A, and being that he’s a Rule 5 pick he must stay on the Sox roster for the remainder of the year or else the club would risk losing him. Pushing Whitlock too hard in the pursuit of wins while, perhaps, stifling his development as a potential key cog for the Red Sox wouldn’t be a prudent move. The Sox realize that.
“Obviously we’ve got to be smart about it,” Cora said. “We’ve got to be disciplined. But as far as right now, we’re trying to stretch him out. The game will dictate what we do. The weeks are going to dictate what we do. As of right now there’s no limitations.”
Hernández goes ‘deep’
Kiké Hernández’s solo homer in the top of the sixth inning in Game 1 off Chicago White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel was his first at Fenway this year. The poke to right field, which wrapped around the Pesky Pole, was also Hernández’s first introduction to some of the good fortune that comes with hitting at Fenway.
Hernández, though, has gotten a number of first introductions this year. It’s the first time he’s had to play in the cold after spending most of his years in sunny southern California with the Dodgers. He’s now seeing everyday playing time, too, shifting from outfield to second base on any given day or game. He’s seeing new arms in a new division and league.
“You get a little more comfortable as you spend a few years in the same division and you keep seeing guys over and over again,” Hernández said. “There’s a lot of these guys that may have been in the league for a while, but to me, they’re all new because I haven’t really faced many of them. It’s a little bit of an adjustment period. It’s part of the challenge and it’s the big leagues, it’s not supposed to be easy. You either adjust or you die in this league.”
In the Sox’ young season, Hernández has been a mainstay in the leadoff spot. Cora placed an emphasis on Hernández hunting the fastball, and so far, he’s hitting .370 on that pitch, his highest mark since 2015.
“I’m always looking heater,” Hernández said. “You have to stick to your strengths. I know that I can do damage on the heater. So it’s not just swinging the heater, it’s swinging at the right heater. That’s been the focus. And that’s what we’re going to keep trying to do.”
Honoring Marathon families
On the eve of what would have been the 125th Boston Marathon, the Red Sox welcomed a number of individuals who were affected by the tragic bombing that took place on April 15, 2013. During the ceremony before Game 1 of the doubleheader, the following individuals were introduced on the field: Bill and Denise Richard (parents of the late Martin Richard); Patty and Bill Campbell (mother and brother of the late Krystle Campbell) and Bill’s family; Helen and Sherman Zhao (aunt and uncle of the late Lingzi Lu); Audrey Epstein Reny, Steven Reny, their daughter, Danielle, and her husband, Kyle; Celeste Corcoran; Adrianne Haslet; Melida Arredondo; Roseann Sdoia Materia and Mike Materia; JP and Paul Norden and Paul’s fiancée, Jacqui Webb; Marc Fucarile and his son, Gavin; Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes . . . J.D. Martinez’s 18 RBIs are the most by a Red Sox player through the club’s first 16 games of a season since Shea Hillenbrand had 20 in that span back in 2003. Martinez has tallied as many as 18 RBIs in March/April two other times in his career: in 2018 (18), and with the Astros in 2012 (19) . . . Just before Game 2, the White Sox placed righthander Lance Lynn on the injured list with a strained right trapezius. Righthander Zack Burdi was recalled from the team’s alternate site . . . Monday’s annual Patriots Day game will begin at 11:10 a.m. Nate Eovaldi will start for the Red Sox against Chicago’s Lucas Giolito.