Why the Red Sox should keep Garrett Whitlock in the bullpen

After Whitlock's return from the injured list, the Red Sox should keep Whitlock where he has pitched best.
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Garrett Whitlock made his long-awaited return to the mound on Sunday afternoon for the Red Sox against the Tigers. After a month-long IL stint due to right elbow inflammation, the right-hander pitched two scoreless innings with three strikeouts in a relief role.

Whitlock has not come out of the bullpen for the team in almost a year, a role that he has seen much more success in as opposed to starting. The splits between his stats as a reliever compared to his stats as a starter are telling. In roughly a 22 inning difference between roles, Whitlock carries a 2.24 ERA as a reliever, and a 4.76 ERA as a starter.

That's not all. In his 19 games as a starter, opposing batters hold a .282 batting average compared to a .212 average when Whitlock comes out of the bullpen. He also holds a .994 WHIP as a reliever, with a 1.29 as a starter.

The Red Sox have a tendency to tinker with how they use effective pitchers, with former Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard as another example. The experiments using Bard as a starter after he was dealing as a reliever proved one thing; If a player is succeeding in their role, teams should not try to change them. We've seen Bard excel as a closer for the Colorado Rockies, after taking a break from pitching for over five years.

The Red Sox can build their starting rotation in free agency to keep Garrett Whitlock in the bullpen.

With the key moments Whitlock has had as a reliever in his short time in Boston, why wouldn't the team keep him in the role where he has seen the most success? Starting pitching has the most high end talent in the 2023-2024 free agent class. If the team does not have many major league ready starters to supplement an aging starting five, they are in a great position to build the rotation in the offseason. This would allow Whitlock to maintain his dominance as a reliever.

The team has committed to Whitlock for the next for the next three years, after giving him a four year $18.75 million extension in 2022 that has the potential to turn into six years with two club options. Additionally, less innings in each relief appearance may lessen the chance of injury, as Whitlock has has seven different stints on the injured list in his three years with the team. The Rule 5 draft pick has blossomed into a key pitcher for the Red Sox, and how they chose to use him in the next three years will be a key storyline to follow.

Based on the success Whitlock has seen when coming out of the bullpen, the Red Sox should end the starting pitching experiment and allow the hard throwing right hander to keep shutting down opposing lineups in a long inning relief role.