Red Sox fans will appreciate the meaning behind Garrett Whitlock’s new jersey number

FT. MYERS, FL - MARCH 13: Garrett Whitlock #72 of the Boston Red Sox throws during a spring training team workout on March 13, 2022 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS, FL - MARCH 13: Garrett Whitlock #72 of the Boston Red Sox throws during a spring training team workout on March 13, 2022 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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When Garrett Whitlock takes the mound for the Boston Red Sox in 2023, he’ll finally be wearing a number familiar to the Fenway Faithful and deeply meaningful to him.

Whitlock has officially changed his jersey number from 72 to 22. He’ll be the 38th player in franchise history to wear 22, also worn by Willy Mo Peña, Tony Clark, Bill Buckner, and Moe Berg, the catcher who became a spy for the Allied Forces during World War 2.

The Sox star isn’t paying homage to any of them or his 2021 teammate Danny Santana. Whitlock is wearing 22 because it was Rick Porcello’s number, and the young Sox star calls him, “By far my favorite pitcher ever.”

Garrett Whitlock changes Red Sox jersey number in honor of favorite pitcher, Rick Porcello

Add sharing the number to the many ways Whitlock emulates his idol. His three-quarter sleeves and the bend in his cap are tributes to Porcello’s style. He says he’s been modeling himself after his Sox predecessor since before the Yankees drafted him in 2017. He’s spoken at length about why he admires Porcello: throwing a lot of strikes, limiting walks, going deep into games, attacking the zone, and above all, his work ethic and reputation as a team player focused on the collective W-L, not his own record.

Throughout Whitlock’s rookie season in 2021, his teammates encouraged him to change his number, but during Boston’s postseason run, he told Chad Jennings of The Athletic (subscription required) that he felt hadn’t earned the honor yet and wanted Porcello’s permission in person:

"“The only way I’m going to change my number is if Porcello tells me, in person, ‘It’s OK for you to be 22. And the only other number would be 48, because that’s what he was in Detroit. So, those are the only numbers I really care about that I would do. But I don’t want to taint his number. I don’t want to do anything like that, so I would only do it with his permission.”"

Whitlock debuted on a Red Sox roster full of players who’d played with Porcello. When Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, and Eduardo Rodriguez found out how much he idolized their former teammate, they told Porcello that the rookie was one to watch. Last fall, the 2016 Cy Young winner told Jennings that Whitlock’s opinion of him was “one of the biggest compliments” he’s ever received and that he planned to convince him to wear the number:

"“I’m going to recruit him to wear it, because he would do nothing but increase the value of that number. That number needs some steady success like he’s doing. I would love to see him wear it. He’s his own guy, too. He’s going to have his own success and carve his own path. Whatever he wants, but a number, they’re there to be worn. I hope I’ll get a chance to see him and tell him to wear it… I’m just tremendously flattered. Honestly, the fact that he followed me, now I’m going to be following him, and I’m a huge Garrett Whitlock fan because of this.”"

Whitlock heard what Porcello said about him to Jennings and decided to wear 22 in 2022. But when the Sox signed veteran pitcher Derek Holland to a minor-league deal in March, Whitlock relinquished the number. Holland never made the big-league team, but Tommy Pham took the number when the Sox acquired him midseason. Earlier this month, the Sox declined Pham’s mutual option, making him a free agent.

In 2023, Whitlock will finally be feeling 22.