Almost a month later, Whitley is now 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA in his first six starts of his major league career and had his latest impressive outing against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night in a 6-3 victory; going 7.2 innings, allowing two runs on five hits, walking none and striking out six while throwing just 82 pitches.
Whitley was once a reliever in the Yankees minor leagues, but was converted this year into a starter and impressed at Class-AAA Scranton/Wilks-Barre, going 3-2 with a 2.39 ERA; numbers that got Whitley a call up to the majors and into the starting rotation when CC Sabathia went on the disabled list with the knee injury. The Yankees were hoping he'd show them something; what he did was earn his way into the starting rotation.
Whitley, in 33.2 innings, has walked only three batters, which means Whitley is locating the ball and is throwing a ton of strikes; a great sign for a rookie pitcher. In his last start against the Mariners, Whitley threw 82 pitches, 62 of them were for strikes. In his previous start against the Kansas City Royals, Whitley threw 87 pitches, 51 of them were for strikes. The one before that against the Minnesota Twins, Whitley threw 83 pitches, 56 of them were for strikes.
Having great location and attacking the strike zone always bodes well. Whitley as a reliever used to struggle with command, as he used to average four walks per nine innings, but Whitley said he's trusting his stuff more and isn't pitching scared like he used to in the minors. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that trusting his stuff has earned him success.
"That's trusting in his stuff," Girardi said. "He doesn’t beat himself. He doesn’t walk people. He gets ahead in the count. And he's mixed in an outstanding changeup with his fastballs and sliders. He gets ahead in the count. He’s done a really good job for us."
Not only has he been effective, Whitley has shown a lot of mental toughness on the mound. In the bottom of the third inning against the Mariners, Whitley had a situation where it was first and third with two outs and Seattle had a chance to get some runs off Whitley, but instead, Whitley struck out Kyle Seager to end the threat. In his first start against the New York Mets, Whitley was in a spot where he had first and third with one out and got out of it by having Eric Young, Jr. fly out and Daniel Murphy striking out to end the inning.
Some of his starts have come on the road and in spacious ballparks like Citi Field and Safeco Field, but he has had a start in Yankee Stadium; one he could have won if not for an implosion by David Robertson in the ninth inning that cost them a victory. If not for that inning, Whitley could be 3-0, although in retrospect, with a little more run support and pitching a little longer in some of his previous starts, Whitley could easily be 5-0 or 6-0 because he's been that good.
When Sabathia and Michael Pineda return to the Yankees, Whitley won't be the one who gets demoted back to the minors; David Phelps and Vidal Nuno will be subject to losing their spots before Whitley. Whitley continues to show the Yankees that he not only belongs in the major leagues, but belongs in the Yankees rotation and will continue to give the Yankees a serious, fighting chance to climb right back into the A.L. East race.
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