TAMPA, Fla. — Eighteen players were taken in the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December. Through Sunday, Red Sox righthander Garrett Whitlock and Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo have been the most valuable.
Whitlock and Baddoo have been worth 1.1 WAR to their respective teams.
Whitlock is 2-1 with a 1.57 earned run average in 20 appearances. The 25-year-old has become a regular choice for manager Alex Cora in high-leverage situations.
Game plan coordinator Jason Varitek had a sense this was possible back in February.
“That’s my boy,” Varitek said on Sunday. “From day one in spring training this kid — this young man, not kid — has done nothing but impress and he keeps getting better.”
Varitek, who works closely with the pitchers, feels Whitlock will only get better as he gains experience.
“He’s been able to make on-field adjustments with his breaking pitches,” Varitek said. “He’s just been impressive.”
A starter in the Yankees organization, Whitlock is using four pitches — sinker, changeup, slider, and four-seam fastball — effectively. Righthanded hitters have been overmatched by his slider.
Whitlock also embraced the emphasis pitching coach Dave Bush put on pitching at a fast tempo.
“You watch him and that’s first and foremost what he’s doing,” Varitek said. “He’s been exemplary.”
Eduardo Rodriguez, who faces the Rays on Tuesday night, is 0-4 with an 8.55 ERA in his last seven starts. He has not picked up a win since May 7.
Rodriguez has pitched poorly at times. But he’s also been unlucky. Opponents have hit .452 on balls put in play.
The Rays are planning on using righthander Andrew Kittredge as an opener on Tuesday with lefthander Ryan Yarbrough to follow.
Rich Hill is the scheduled starter for the Rays on Wednesday. The 41-year-old lefty from Boston has not faced the Sox since 2014 and his only start against them was in 2009 when he was with the Orioles.
Facing John Smoltz — yes, really — Hill allowed seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis homered off him.
Rays manager Kevin Cash is not surprised to find the Red Sox in first place after a last-place finish in 2020.
“Coming into the season we thought very highly of them. They had a couple players last year that had not their typical years,” he said.
“By our thoughts, and what we appreciate valuing players, we were confident that they were going to bounce back, and it looks like a lot of them have. They’ve swung the bat.
“They’ve gotten good pitching, in both starting and relieving. It seems like their roster is thicker to where they’re getting contributions not just from eight guys every night. They’re making the most of the opportunity. So it should be set up for a very good series.”
Cora believes the Rays have succeeded with their defense.
“They’re very consistent,” he said. “Regardless of the pitching and their offense, defensively they’re very good. When you don’t slump defensively, you give yourself a chance … They’re a good all-around baseball team.”
Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers have wide leads at their respective positions in voting for the All-Star Game.
J.D. Martinez is a distant second to Shohei Ohtani at DH. Christian Vázquez is fourth among catchers and Alex Verdugo eighth among outfielders.
The first phase of the on-line voting ends at 4 p.m. Thursday. On Sunday, the top three vote-getters at each position [top nine for outfielders] in each league will be revealed at noon on MLB Network.
They will advance to the second phase of voting to determine who makes the All-Star teams and starts for each league.
He’s on a roll?
Martinez has a 10-game hit streak but is a modest 12 of 42 (.286) with five RBIs. His batting has dropped from .313 to .309 … The Sox have committed eight errors leading to eight unearned runs in the last seven games … The Sox are 19-16 at Tropicana Field since 2017.