Whittleman making up for lost time

SURPRISE, AZ - Mononucleosis forced John Whittleman to miss fall instructional league, but the prospect has been making up for lost time by reporting to camp on January 15. Lone Star Dugout has a Q&A session with the 21-year-old third baseman.

Following a sub-par 2006 season that included a .227 batting average and a 45-94 record, third baseman John Whittleman enjoyed a much-needed breakout campaign in 2007.

Whittleman got his season off to a quick start by batting .343 with 18 doubles and nine home runs in the first two months of the season. The start was good enough to earn him a spot in the Midwest League All-Star Game as well as the MLB All-Star Futures Game.

The Houston native helped make a name for himself in the nationally-televised Futures Game, as he hit a home run off Mets prospect Deolis Guerra [Guerra is now with the Twins].

But Whittleman struggled for much of the second half with Clinton before getting an eventual promotion to High-A Bakersfield. The third baseman played 29 games with the Blaze and batted just .240 with 33 strikeouts in 104 at-bats. He didn't lose his patience though, still drawing 23 walks, which led to an on-base percentage of .372.

Whittleman was set to attend fall instructional league over the offseason, but a case of mononucleosis forced him to return home early in the camp. Lone Star Dugout was able to speak with Whittleman as he tries to make up for lost time this spring.

Jason Cole: When did you get out here to Surprise?

John Whittleman: January 15th, I think.

Cole: That's quite a bit before camp ‘officially' opened. What were you doing before everyone got here?

Whittleman: We have a workout program that Napoleon puts us on – our head strength and conditioning guy for the minor leagues. We work out every day with a pretty strenuous conditioning and lifting program. We do our basic fundamentals and try to get back into the baseball mode. We throw light everyday and just try to get our arms back into shape. We take some BP and do whatever it takes to get back into the right swing of things. Then we had minicamp roll around. There were probably ten of us out there at minicamp. We were out there doing live BP and going over all the signs and stuff – kind of getting a head start on everything to get us going just in case we did slip over to the big league side for a couple of games.

Cole: Have you been able to go over for any Major League spring training games?

Whittleman: Yeah, I went over for one two days ago. I went over to Tempe and we played the Angels. I didn't get in the game, but I was able to learn from those guys. [Note: Whittleman has since played in a spring training game. He was 0-for-1 against the Cubs on March 12.] Any time you get to hang out with Blalock or Michael Young or Ian Kinsler – any of those guys – you want to learn and pick their brains. You want to try and learn what they know. It'll help me in the long run because those guys got to where they're at for a reason and we want to get to where they're at someday.

Cole: How much hitting did you do over the offseason?

Whittleman: A pretty good amount. I think right after Christmas you start locking in on hitting and stuff. Up to that point, I hadn't really been hitting too crazy. I didn't really pick up a bat until January 1st or so. Then you pick it up and start light and then go more and more. Whatever it takes to get you going.

Cole: Was it good to get that rest over the offseason?

Whittleman: Oh, yeah, because I left instructs and I had mono. Whenever I had mono I wasn't cleared to do any full 100 percent activity until December 1st. Once I started working out heavy and I got out here early, things kind of started to fall into place.

Cole: Did you feel you were able to make up for lost time by coming out here early?

Whittleman: Oh yeah definitely. You hate to miss time for anything, whether that be during the season or in instructs. You hate to miss, but I feel like it was beneficial to come out here early. Whenever I got invited to minicamp, I knew I was going to be that much ahead whenever camp did start. I feel comfortable with where I'm at right now and workouts are going well.

Cole: Is there anything you're really focusing in on in spring training?

Whittleman: Footwork for fielding, mainly right now. I'm working on the footwork a lot. I'm just trying to get the feet in the right position when I field so it helps my throws. I'm trying to knock down on some of the errors. I'm just working on the footwork in the field and obviously I am always working on the swing.

Cole: Even though you've struggled with errors a bit the last two seasons, the Rangers have still kept you at third base. Does that say anything to you about their confidence that you can continue to improve there?

Whittleman: Oh yeah. It hasn't been a crazy number of errors every year. We play 140 games and errors are going to happen. As long as you can put more on the board than you're letting on, then you're good. But we want to field the ball and be clean with it. I'm definitely not satisfied with myself in the field right now. I'm ready to get to the point where I can be satisfied and I want to move up and get on going with the career. But that's one of the things I'm going to work on nonstop. Hopefully I don't have to move, but me and Davis are good friends and he just went over to first base. That kind of opens some doors for me. I'm taking this game serious – I never have taken it lightly, so you just focus that much harder on getting things right.

Cole: Do you have any idea where you're going to be starting the season?

Whittleman: As of right now it's Bakersfield. Things change everyday – different stuff happens. But hopefully I'll be able to move up fast.

Cole: Does it give you a little extra motivation now that you are just one step away from playing back in your home state?

Whittleman: Oh yeah definitely. I want to get back closer to home where my family can come out and watch. I'm only four hours away either way – Frisco or Arlington. Either way I'm real close. It would be nice to get close to the family again. That is definitely the goal. You don't want to stop in Frisco. Your goal is to move up a level. Once you get to Frisco, you don't want to be content with being there. Hopefully I get to Arlington and make it home for a long time.

Cole: Have you set any goals for this season?

Whittleman: I just want to go out there and play to win. I still haven't gotten a championship ring yet. Whether that be in Bakersfield or Frisco or whether it be all the way up the ladder to being part of an organization that won a World Series. I just want to win a championship for once in pro ball. We had the shot last year, but things happened and people got moved up and people got really good. We developed throughout the year and they broke apart some teams, but that's part of the minor leagues and part of development. I think the main goal is to win a championship and play to win.


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