Lone Star Dugout Q&A: John Whittleman

In his second season with Single-A Clinton, John Whittleman was able to participate in both the Midwest League All-Star Game and MLB Futures Game. Lone Star Dugout sat down with the third baseman for an interview on his honors and his season with the L-Kings.

Though Clinton third baseman John Whittleman has struggled in the month of July, going just 10-for-65 at the plate, he still ranks among the leaders in most of the Midwest League's statistical categories. Lone Star Dugout caught up with Whittleman to discuss his season and a possible promotion.

Jason Cole: After hitting just .227 with Clinton last season, you've been selected to participate in both the Midwest League All-Star Game and MLB Futures Game this year. What do those honors mean to you?

John Whittleman: It's a big honor, especially when you look at the names that have gone through the Futures Game and the Midwest League All-Star Game. They had the pictures of all the previous big league names that have been through there at the Midwest League All-Star Game. It is a great honor to be named to both of those things. It means your club thinks highly of you for the Futures Game, along with Major League Baseball. The Midwest League coaches and my manager, Mike Micucci, obviously think highly of me. You couldn't put up numbers unless you had a great team behind you. The only reason I'm doing all this stuff is because the guys in that clubhouse have been putting up numbers behind me and we've been winning. I'm playing well as a reflection of all the winning.

Cole: You struggled both at the plate and in the field last year. What are you doing differently this year?

Whittleman: Last year was just frustrating all the time. I just couldn't get comfortable at the plate and it was my first full season at third base. My manager, Mike Micucci, has just taken me under his wing and we've worked on everything from depth at third base to approach at the plate. Little stuff that makes you better and the mental aspect of the game is probably what I've worked on the most.

Cole: Last year's Clinton team really struggled, but you clinched a playoff spot before this year's All-Star break. Do you feel it's easier to perform with a winning team around you?

Whittleman: Oh yeah, definitely. I think if you play to win, your numbers are going to reflect off that. I think everyone on this team just plays to win. If I don't get it done, Chad Tracy comes up behind me and gets it done. You've got guys in front of us like Marcus Lemon, Craig Gentry, and Jose Vallejo, all those guys get on base and they're a threat to score automatically. You've got guys in our lineup and our pitching staff is putting up zeros on the board. We put runs on the board, they put up zeros, and you're probably going to come out on top. I think our whole team just has great chemistry and we play to win every time. That's a reflection of our individual stats, they come off that. I think it's good that we all just play to win. We've got great team chemistry and it's all a reflection of what we're doing now.

Cole: You had Lasik surgery over the offseason. How much do you feel that has helped you this year?

Whittleman: A lot. You've got to be able to see when you get up to the plate. The game is hard enough as it is. Last year I had a tough time. I think what it came out to was 20-45 in one eye. My lead eye, my right eye. It's a totally different ballgame whenever you can see. I compare it to going from regular TV to high definition. The whole vision surgery is unreal. Dr. Tylock's office in Dallas and the Rangers were kind enough to send me back home to Dallas to take care of that. I guess I give all the credit to Dr. Tylock and the Rangers for actually letting me go through with that.

Cole: Can you talk about your general approach at the plate?

Whittleman: Early in the season, coming back here after struggling last year, you're looking for fastballs. Still in every at-bat you're looking for a fastball. But as you start hitting those fastballs and go through the season, guys are going to pitch around you and it shows with the walks. Now you go up there looking for certain pitches and if they throw another pitch up there and you react to it, then you react to it. But if they throw it up there and it's a strike and you take it, then so be it. You're still sitting on that one pitch. That goes along with the approach and the plan and I've been working on that a lot with Mike Micucci. He and my hitting coach, Brian Dayett, have been working a lot with me on my approach and the mental aspect of the game. You just go up there looking for certain pitches and just take that for what it's worth.

Cole: How do you feel your defense is progressing?

Whittleman: Last year was my first full season at the hot corner over there. I think I had 34 or 36 errors over there. I compare it to Derek Jeter. Jeter had 54 or 56 errors in his first full season. People still say I'm struggling over there, but that's going to come with the territory. People are always going to be looking at the negatives. I changed my depth over there, I backed up and played like a shortstop. I backed up and moved over and things have just kind of slowed down over there. When you slow the game down it's going to be easier for you.

Cole: Playing in your second season with Clinton, are you looking forward to a possible promotion to Bakersfield?

Whittleman: I wouldn't really like to go to Bakersfield to be honest with you. That's not a place for me I don't think. I think that either staying here or bypassing that would be ideal for me. I don't think Bakersfield is the place to go. You go from this winning atmosphere right now to, nothing against those guys, but it's a tough league. We've got a great chemistry of guys here and we're playing to win here. I just think that I'd love to stay here and finish it out with these guys.

Cole: Do you know anything about a possible promotion?

Whittleman: Nothing at all. I'm in the dark with that stuff. People ask me when I'm going to move up and I just say I'm in the dark just like y'all are. Y'all wonder like I do. Whenever it happens, it'll happen. If I went to Bakersfield, that would be great, and I'd play to win there. But I've learned a lot here so far and I love this group of guys and I'd love to win a championship here too.

Cole: Although a good portion of this Clinton roster is repeating the league, there haven't been many promotions so far. Are you surprised?

Whittleman: Not at all. We've already clinched a playoff spot and we want to win a championship for this organization. We want to stress winning, the winning percentage, and the whole winning attitude. We stressed that a lot during spring training. Our minor league director, Scott Servais, stressed that a lot. He said ‘we're here to win'. As you can tell from our minor league numbers, we didn't win that much last year. But we're turning it around this year. He told us this year that he's not going to touch this group of guys that much. Guys are going to get promoted, that's part of the game. Somebody is going to get moved up eventually. But we clinched a playoff spot and that's what we and the Rangers wanted most. That's big for our organization.

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