Red Sox: Garrett Whitlock’s role is uncertain but he’s ready to work in 2022

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 23: Pitcher Garrett Whitlock #72 of the Boston Red Sox shouts out after ending the 11th inning against the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park on August 23, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 23: Pitcher Garrett Whitlock #72 of the Boston Red Sox shouts out after ending the 11th inning against the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park on August 23, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images) /

Garrett Whitlock is ready for wherever the Red Sox need him

Opening Day is next week and as the dust starts to settle on the roster and where players will fall in the lineup Garrett Whitlock‘s role in the team is still undecided. The Red Sox are in need of both a strong starter and dominant reliever, and the righty has shown he can be either, so where will he land in 2022?

Stealing Whitlock from the Yankees via the Rule 5 Draft may be one of the biggest moves of the Chaim Bloom Era in Boston. The young pitcher went from tossed-away prospect to dominant star reliever in the blink of an eye. If you watched Garrett pitch in 2021 you’d never know that he had Tommy John surgery unless you’d been made aware.

Originally drafted as a starter by New York the wear and tear on his arm finally caught up to him, leading to the aforementioned TJS. The Red Sox eagerly swiped him from the Bronx Bombers and converted him to a reliever while he was recuperating. That positional change may have been the best thing to happen to Whitlock, at least for now.

He was one of the most dominant bullpen arms across all of baseball last season and would even be on the mound to record the final out against the Yankees in the Wild Card Game.

Over the offseason, I had called for the Red Sox to make him the full-time closer as his pitching style works perfectly for that role. BSI’s Sean Penney went to the other side of the coin and said it was time to let him get work in the rotation. Much like the team itself, we have no idea where he’ll land.

Last season we did see the right-hander work in a variety of situations out of the bullpen and he was lights-out in his long relief efforts. Getting that glimpse into what he can do in more than a single inning of work lends itself to the argument that he should be Boston’s fifth starter in 2022.

With Chris Sale’s timeline still uncertain, Alex Cora will have to name someone to fill the vacancy and Whitlock is a frontrunner alongside Rich Hill.

Whitlock was asked about where he’d like to be in the grand scheme of things this season and he gave possibly one of the best answers ever.

"“I do whatever they tell me to do… I’ll be the janitor on this team if it means I get to stay in the big leagues,” he said."

Of course, we won’t be seeing Garrett walking around Fenway Park picking up bags of popcorn but his mentality is exactly what we should want in someone on the team. Wherever AC needs him he’ll be ready to answer the call. He would go into the differences between the two roles and what he views as some of the pros and cons of each.

It seems like he enjoys starting more as he knows when and where he’ll be pitching and he can form a routine to keep himself ready. He also mentions that being a reliever offers a different type of feeling and getting the call to enter a game gives you an adrenaline boost that starting doesn’t quite have since there’s less time to react.

"“You kind of get the butterflies as soon as you wake up instead of when that phone rings,” he said. “You have a little bit more time to gather your thoughts on everything.”"

Again, I think that he’s best used in that bullpen/closer role. His aggressiveness on the mound makes him damn near lethal in those short appearances. There’s just something about a lockdown arm coming out of the pen when the game is on the line that I love. However, his start on Sunday showed that he still has what it takes to be in the rotation and the thought of him and Tanner Houck as starters for the next decade puts a smile on my face.

No matter where the Red Sox choose to use Whitlock in 2022 I have all the confidence that he’ll be the arm that they need. If he’s in the rotation he’ll have himself ready to rock every fifth day. If he’s storming out of the bullpen like some familiar faces from rosters past, I believe that he’ll empty the tank every damn night. Boston has a lot of exciting weapons in the arsenal right now and what Garrett offers may be at the top of the list.

"“They both have their benefits,” Whitlock said. “The routine of starting is really nice, but at the same time, being able to have that workhorse mentality of a reliever is also something I really love, too.”"

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