On a cool, cloudy Friday night in Troy, NY, a strapping six foot four, 220 pound right hander made his professional debut for the Lowell Spinners, as the starting pitcher. Usually the pro debut of an 11th round draft choice is not normally noteworthy, but Karsten Whitson is not your normal 11th round draft choice. Drafted ninth overall by the San Diego Padres out of a Florida high school in 2010, Whitson played on all-star teams with players like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado who have already made their major league debuts. Whitson decided to honor his commitment to the University of Florida (his parents are both alums), and spurn the Padres’ $2.1 million to pitch for the Gators.
When Whitson had injury problems (labrum) in 2013, the Washington Nationals took a flier on his great potential and the success (2.40 ERA as a freshman) he had in the Florida program and drafted him in the 37th round. Whitson decided to complete his degree and finish this season. After a 3.86 ERA in 37 innings at Florida, Whitson was drafted again by the Red Sox in the 11th round, the 344th pick in the draft. He had another year of eligibility remaining, but decided he was ready for his pro career.
Tuesday, the Red Sox finalized terms with Whitson and seven other draftees. Tonight, Whitson took the mound against the Tri-City Valley Cats, the single A affiliate of the Houston Astros. He struck out his first professional batter. Thereafter, things didn’t go perfectly. A walk, a wild pitch and a sharp single up the middle plated his first professional earned run. He stranded a runner at third to complete the first. In the second, he retired the side in order on two groundouts and a line-out to third. Whitson’s night was finished.
Last year when this writer saw the Spinners play the Valley Cats they had a little speedy infielder named Mookie Betts who ended up at Fenway a little more than a year later. While it’s hard to envision another player make such a meteoric rise to the majors, Karsten Whitson could also realize his potential and rocket through the Red Sox system. Tonight, was the first step in that journey