Former UAB pitcher Garrett Whitlock provided a bright spot for the Boston Red Sox in their dismal season-opening series over the weekend.
The Baltimore Orioles swept the Red Sox at Fenway Park to start the 2021 MLB season, winning by scores of 3-0, 4-2 and 11-3 and leaving Boston with its first 0-3 record when opening the season at home since 1948.
In the Red Sox’s eight-run loss on Sunday, Whitlock became the first pitcher in Red Sox history to strike out at least five hitters while yielding no walks and no runs in his Major League debut.
“It was definitely a dream come true,” Whitlock said, “and it was an honor wearing the Red Sox name making that dream come true, so I just can’t thank everyone with the Red Sox enough for giving me a chance.”
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Whitlock had a 7-11 record pitching for UAB in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. In 42 games, including eight starts, the right-hander worked 111.1 innings with a 3.56 earned-run average, 90 strikeouts and 45 walks for the Blazers.
An 18th-round draft pick of the New York Yankees in 2017, Whitlock had a 12-8 record with a 2.41 ERA in 42 games, including 38 starts, for five teams in the team’s farm system. In 205.1 minor-league innings, Whitlock struck out 201 and walked 59.
Whitlock’s MLB debut marked his first outing in a league rated higher than Double-A. His 2019 assignment to the Double-A Trenton Thunder had been cut short by an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, and he missed the 2020 season.
Obtained by the Red Sox from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft in December, Whitlock gave up one run and struck out 12 in nine innings of Grapefruit League work to earn a spot on the Boston pitching staff in spring training.
“That was the highlight of the day, right? The positive of the day,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said about Whitlock’s performance on Sunday. “He did an amazing job. He was good. Pounded the strike zone, used his fastball up, mixed up his offspeed pitches. It was fun to watch.”
With the Red Sox trailing 10-0, Whitlock entered the game in the third with runners on first and second and got Orioles third baseman Maikel Franco to fly out to end the inning. Over the next three innings, Whitlock gave up three singles and struck out five.
A couple of ground-ball singles and a wild pitch had Baltimore runners on second and third in the fourth, but Whitlock struck out Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini to end the inning.
“It was just an honor to be out there just to be with those guys who have been out there and, like I said, just the Red Sox’s history that’s behind everything,” Whitlock said. “Yeah, adrenaline was rushing. I think anyone that tells you otherwise is lying to you. It was just a ton of fun, and I just loved soaking it up.”
Whitlock became the third former UAB player to reach the Major Leagues, joining Hector Villanueva and Chris Hammond.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.