CHICAGO — The Garrett Whitlock rotation experience is finished, at least for this year. Whitlock, on the injured list with right hip inflammation, will rejoin the bullpen when he returns, which should be soon.
Whitlock was inconsistent as a member of the rotation, posting a 4.15 ERA in nine starts, but this decision was more about the Sox needing another lockdown multi-inning reliever, a role Whitlock has thrived in since arriving last season. He has pitched to a 1.84 ERA in 83 regular-season relief innings, striking out 92.
Specifically, the Sox are in dire need of a righthander that can get outs. Hansel Robles has a 5.70 ERA in 25 appearances this year, and Hirokazu Sawamura isn’t a consistently reliable option for manager Alex Cora despite a 2.63 ERA. It’s forced Cora to lean on John Schreiber, Tyler Danish, and Tanner Houck.
Not only would the trio of Schreiber, Houck, and Whitlock be an enticing three-headed monster, but the addition gives the Sox more options, allowing the other two some rest.
“There are going to be days when [Houck and Schreiber] are down, and [Whitlock] will have to go the eighth and ninth to finish it,” Cora said before Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Cubs. “He gives everybody a blow in the bullpen. He’s still a good pitcher regardless of if it’s the first inning or the ninth inning, but using him as a multi-inning weapon, it makes sense for where we are at and with the guys that we have right now.”
Whitlock threw a bullpen Saturday and took part in pitchers’ fielding practice. The Red Sox will figure out what’s next once they see how Whitlock’s body responds to Saturday’s activity.
“It feels good. It was good stuff. We’ll see what tomorrow brings,” Whitlock said. “I just love that I get to play this game. I’m ready to get back and be with the boys.”
Knee issue lands Rich Hill on injured list
Rich Hill hit the injured list with a left knee sprain Saturday after leaving Friday’s game in the fifth inning.
Hill received an MRI Saturday and said he was sore and stiff when he woke up. When he suffered an MCL strain in 2019, he said the pain was at the top of his knee. This time, it’s more toward the bottom.
He felt better moving around as the day went along, but said if he tries to, for example, drag his foot across the ground, he feels pain.
“It’s difficult,” Hill said Saturday. “I want to contribute and be here for the guys. Obviously, not being able to do that is something I have to take care of and hopefully be back soon.”
Injury puts Cubs in bullpen early
Cubs starter Alec Mills departed after just seven pitches of Saturday’s game, appearing to injure himself on a pitch Rafael Devers slugged for a double. He was replaced by Mark Leiter Jr. . . . Chris Sale has another rehab game Wednesday in Worcester, and could return to the rotation July 11 against the Rays if all goes well. The Sox, though, have to get through this week, one that includes no off days. In order to do that, they’ll need a bullpen game or to call up a pitcher to start in place of Hill. For now, the Sox have recalled Phillips Valdez . . . Kiké Hernández (right hip flexor strain) took 20 swings Saturday . . . Nate Eovaldi (back/hip tightness) threw a 35-pitch bullpen, while James Paxton (Tommy John) threw 35 pitches . . . Matt Barnes (right shoulder inflammation) threw a 25-pitch bullpen Thursday.