Add Alex Cora to the growing list of Garrett Whitlock fans, though the Red Sox manager very well may have been one of the first.
Whitlock was credited with the win Wednesday as the Boston Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-2. He threw two scoreless innings — his fourth straight outing without an earned run — and gave up two hits, stepping into a crucial spot for the seventh and eighth innings.
It was Whitlock’s seventh win of the year. He brought his season ERA down to 1.52, with 72 strikeouts over 39 games. Alone, his numbers are spectacular, but taking a closer look at how what he’s doing compares to the rest of the league is even more impressive.
The 25-year-old ranks second in the American League and fourth in all of Major League Baseball with that ERA (among players with at least 60 innings pitched.) He has 23 scoreless outings that lasted at least one inning, an MLB best.
Of course hindsight is 20/20, but the Red Sox absolutely deserve some credit, considering they found him as a hidden gem in the New York Yankees organization and added him as a Rule 5 pick in March. And the Red Sox manager has been onto the rookie and his massive work ethic since spring training.
“When I saw this kid in spring training, I was impressed,” Cora said Thursday. “I was very impressed for everything. We were talking two days about how perfect he is. Like what Chris (Sale) said yesterday, he struggles one and then boom, he fixes right away. He doesn’t stop working, not only with (pitching coach Dave Bush) and (bullpen coach Kevin Walker) but also with the information department, trying to see his pitches. He’s great. He cares about winning. We took care of him early but now it’s a full go with him obviously going multiple innings.
“He’s never taken anything for granted. In spring training when it was obvious that he wasn’t going to go back to New York, he kept working. He kept pushing. It’s all him.”
Cora referenced Sale’s comments from Wednesday, when the ace said his teammate should be considered “a lock” to win the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award. But Sale is far from the first to pick up on Whitlock’s talent, as Alex Verdugo, Nate Eovaldi, Adam Ottavino and Matt Barnes have made clear they think the rookie has made a case.
That’s quite a panel of endorsements.