Red Sox: Tampa Bay proves that Garrett Whitlock is human after all

Aug 10, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Garrett Whitlock (72) on the mound against the Tampa Bay Rays during the seventh inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 10, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Garrett Whitlock (72) on the mound against the Tampa Bay Rays during the seventh inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

It turns out Red Sox reliever Garrett Whitlock actually is human

I feel like more often than not lately I’m having to talk to everyone after a loss, and that’s because the Red Sox are in the midst of the worst stretch of their season. While it was a team effort in the first half to give them a first-place standing, it’s been a team effort since the All-Star break that has seen their descent. One man I thought was going to be safe from the current freefall in the standings was Garrett Whitlock.

Boston’s rookie reliever has been electric all season long but a white-hot Tampa Bay offense proved the righty is human after all. The right-hander was picked up in the Rule 5 Draft from the Yankees and he’s been lights-out since putting on that Red Sox uniform. For as good as he’s been this year, he’s still very young in the world of MLB and is learning with each and every outing.

He comes out of the bullpen with a nasty 96 MPH fastball and a changeup that can make hitters look like they’re playing beer league softball. While his heater tends to be his best pitch, and one he can do some serious damage with, last night he relied on it too heavily and Tampa made him pay in a big way. In his 1 2/3 innings of work get gave up two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out three.

To put it into perspective, it’s been nearly two months since he gave up that damage in an outing. The Braves touched him for three runs back on June 15th and before that the Tigers got three back at the beginning of May. So it seems like he’s due for one of these rough outings every couple of months. Unfortunately, that means his next due date comes in the midst of October baseball, the absolute worst time for an implosion on the mound.

In his postgame media availability provided by Chris Cotillo of, the rookie admitted that he didn’t react to what Tampa was doing in a fast enough manner and the team paid badly for it. The Red Sox were up 4-2, but by the time the Rays were done with Whitlock the score was level at 4-4 and things would only get worse for Boston after that.

"“I did not learn quick enough in the outing,” Whitlock said. “Going into the second inning, gave up the first hit and as I was walking to grab the ball from (Bogaerts), (Bogaerts) looked at me and told me, ‘Hey, they’re ambushing fastballs. Start mixing it up.’ I was like, ‘That makes a lot of sense.’ I’ve got to be better about learning quicker and picking that up earlier and not just trying to force my best pitch in there.”"

I do think it’s another leadership feather in the cap of Xander Bogaerts that he was able to identify what Whitlock was doing and how the Rays were just ambushing him on the mound and offer some advice. Bogey wasn’t wrong either, Garrett tossed his fastball 62% of the time last night and Tampa was just waiting on it. On the other hand, only 27% of his pitches were changeups, per Fangraphs. Granted that’s right on par with his season averages of 62.8/22.9%, but it was the mix that wasn’t there.

You can throw the heat a majority of the time but if you’re not keeping the batter guessing then they can just sit there and take everything else until they see one. That’s exactly what the Rays did as all four hits he gave up last night were off of his fastball. Had he tossed in that changeup a little more frequently or broken up his sequence to be more up and down, he may have escaped with better numbers.

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Whitlock entered last night with an impressive 1.17 ERA but last night’s beating totaled for a 10.80 ERA which brings his season total up to 1.46. Obviously, that number is still pretty damn good, especially for a rookie, but it hurt to see a guy who had been so automatic get figured out so easily. Once he started leaning on his other pitches he was able to get results but going so hard on the fastball so early put him in a hole that he wasn’t really able to get out of.

"“I’ve got to read hitters better and I’ve got to learn quicker in an outing., Whitlock added. “If I’d have done that, it could have been different.”"

He’s proven to be a strong reliever for the Red Sox even with last night’s implosion. Alex Cora clearly trusts him in high leverage situations and more often than not he rewards him for that support. His 1.46/55.2/2.79/1.150/2.1/.9.5 line so far in 2021 gives more than enough backing for why he should be in that bullpen and called upon when he is. I do believe the plan is to get him closer to the rotation in 2022 but for now, he’s going to be in these situations and I trust in him to get the job done.

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