Chase Whitley was drafted in 2010, got to Double-A by the end of 2011, and was promoted to Triple-A in early 2012. He was a fast riser those first two pro seasons, and he put up consistent number out of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen for two years, and this winter he seemed an obvious candidate to land a spot on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.
But the Yankees didn’t protect him, and no other team selected him, and more quickly than he’d climbed through the system, Whitley seemed to have fallen off the radar.
“All you can do is just worry about what you’re doing,” Whitley’s friend Adam Warren said. “Not worry about what everyone else is doing or (the fact that) there’s no openings on the roster. You know if you keep pitching, they’ll find room for you. I think that’s what Chase did was he just stayed with the process and kept pitching, and he finally got an opportunity.”
Opportunity comes tonight when the Yankees will add Whitley to their active roster and give him the ball for the Subway Series finale. It will be just the 15th start of his professional career, but he’s the standout of the moment in the Triple-A rotation. Bruce Billings, Chris Leroux, Shane Greene and Alfredo Aceves have come up at various points, and this time it’s Whitley at the top of the pecking order. He has a 2.39 ERA in Triple-A and went 6.2 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts in his most recent full start.
“I think when you’re planning on a young kid coming up and making a start or making an appearance, sometimes you try to plan where it can be,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Sometimes you think, is it easier to do on the road? Maybe. That’s something that you use in consideration, but this situation we couldn’t do it. Is the stage big? The stage is always big your first game in the big leagues, I don’t care where you’re at.”
Whitley’s taken a bit of a strange road to get here — as Warren said, if you’d suggested a year ago that Whitley would be starting and Warren would be the setup man, I’m not sure how many people would have believed you — but after spending most of his career as a minor league reliever, Whitley began getting some starts late last season, and the Yankees converted him full-time this spring. That’s how the opportunity happened. If he were still a two-inning or three-inning reliever, a door might not have opened.
“He hasn’t really done much different (as a starter),” said Matt Daley, who’s seen Whitley in both roles. “He doesn’t really need (to change). It’s just getting a little older, a little more confident in his pitches. … He throws his changeup to lefties and righties, and it’s a plus pitch to both of them. That’s why he works as a starter, whereas some guys like me wouldn’t necessarily work as a starter. There’s really no difference between him relieving or starting.”
Daley said Whitley has added a cutter/slider this season, and he’s using that against both lefties and righties as well, but his basic approach is the same. He throws strikes, gets some ground balls, and leans on his changeup, which Warren called a “wipeout” pitch.
“He’s a great dude and been a good friend of mine for a couple of years now,” Warren said. “It’s nice to see good guys in the game get a chance, so I’m real excited for him. I can’t talk about it without smiling because I’m excited for him.”
Associated Press photo