Why moving Garrett Whitlock to rotation was Red Sox' worst move of season

Tomase: The Red Sox's worst move of the season? Putting Whitlock on the Rotation originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
It's hard to imagine any decision dropping the Red Sox to last place. And despite everything that's gone wrong this season, consider how different the standings could have been had the Sox simply left Garrett Whitlock in the bullpen.
For all the starting crew and lineup injuries, for all the dropouts that left the club at first base, right field and the bullpen, for all the monumental struggles within the division, the moment that could have been at the end of April everything was reversed when the Red Sox turned their most dominant reliever into an unremarkable starter.
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It's fitting that Whitlock's first start went so well -- four shutouts, one hit, seven strikeouts against the Tampa Bay Rays -- and still ended in a 3-2 loss. Kevin Kiermaier left Hansel Robles with a two-run homer in the 10th because the Red Sox needed a Garrett Whitlock to ease Garrett Whitlock.
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You won't make that mistake again, at least not this year. Whitlock is back in the bullpen and the results speak for themselves.
On Friday, he blew the Yankees away for two innings to earn a 3-2 win. In Sunday's final, he beat two, including Aaron Judge, during a perfect ninth place to secure a 3-0 victory for the club's first true series win over division rivals.
He heated up in both games, attacking the Yankees with 97 mph two-seamers before using his slider and changeup. He looks like he was born to close.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox didn't see it that way in April. Whitlock switched to rotation after signing a four-year, $18.75 million contract extension that offered a strong innings incentive. The team had always envisioned him as a starter, but took it slow after stealing him from the Yankees in the 2021 Rule 5 draft. He wasn't ready for a starter's workload after Tommy John surgery, and Alex Cora masterfully guided him through that season, fielding him only once a year on consecutive days.
That walk-off loss to Tampa in April sent the Red Sox below .500, where they would stay until early June. However, the real impact of Whitlock's absence was felt in the following series in Toronto, where Canada's vaccine mandates left right-hander Tanner Houck unavailable. The Red Sox lost a game when left-hander Jake Diekman served George Springer the game-winning homer with two outs in the ninth. They lost another when Tyler Danish served Bo Bichette to a tied Grand Slam in game eight.
They could use a guy like that...
Red Sox Bullpen ERA (27th in MLB)
4.38
Whitlock's ERA as a helper
1.32
variation
Double
In both cases, Whitlock's absence was glaring. Things got even worse in the Finals when he allowed an unearned run in three innings in a 1-0 loss to All-Star Alex Manoah. The Red Sox missed two games late, allowing Whitlock to start with three innings? What's the point?
Whitlock, with a 4.15 ERA, went 1-1 in nine starts before injuring his hip in June and missing more than a month. When he returned on July 15, he did so as a helper. All he's done since is a 1-1 with a 1.53 ERA and three saves in 10 appearances. Take away a costly mistake against the Royals when he hung a switch to Nick Pratto for a walk-off homer after eight straight outs and he was barely touched.
Overall, he's 2-1 with a 1.32 eased ERA. One wonders how many of the team's 23 botched saves, surpassed only by the Rays in the AL, could have been wins with Whitlock at the end of the bullpen. In the Sliding Doors version of the 2022 Red Sox, it could be the only question that matters.
Boston Red Sox
NYY0-BOS3
|Finally
Garret Whitlock
|
SP
|
#72
Tyler Danish
|
RP
|
#60
Tanner Houck
|
SP
|
#89

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