Whitley To Be Tested Again

SCRANTON, PA - The Yankees are going to give right-hander Chase Whitley a big league spot start on Tuesday to help give the rotation some much needed extra rest, especially considering the Yankees play 30 games over the next 31 days. It will be Whitley's first big league start since July 22nd of last year.

2014 was a season to remember for Chase Whitley. It began with the long-time minor league reliever making the full transition to the starting role in Spring Training and it wasn't long before he finally made his big league debut, a spot start against the cross-town rival New York Mets on May 15th where he tossed 4.2 innings of shutout baseball.

He battled some inconsistencies in the starting role afterwards, however, and was then shifted back to the big league bullpen later in the season before ultimately being sent back down to Triple-A Scranton. All in all though it was a respectable rookie season for Whitley at the big league level as he posted a combined 5.23 ERA between relieving and starting [4.76 ERA as a starter].

"I thought it went well," Whitley said in retrospect. "I went there and competed and was pleased with the results and everything."

Though he pitched out of the bullpen pretty much the remainder of the 2014 campaign, the Yankees informed Whitley that he was in fact going to keep working as a starting pitcher, a plan that had initially begun in Spring Training a year ago. This allowed him the opportunity to prepare himself both mentally and physically as a starting pitcher this past offseason.

"In reality nothing much changed," he admitted. "I lifted the same, ran the same, and just came in ready to pitch. As of right now I am a starter that’s why I was optioned down [in Spring Training] and I’m going to work on being a starter.”

He has started all three games he has pitched for Triple-A Scranton so far this season and he's done well, posting a 2-0 mark and a 2.12 ERA. Following the Yankee and Red Sox marathon extra inning game on April 10th the Yankees made some roster moves. Two Railrider starters were called up but Whitley wasn't one of them.

Whitley says he wasn’t surprised by that and perhaps it was a good thing for him [and the Yankees] that the Yankees kept him in Triple-A. It would have been easy to just bring him up and let him provide some length out of a then beleaguered bullpen considering he is on the 40-man roster but it shows that the organization is dedicated to keeping him as a starter and they don’t want to interrupt his rotation pattern.

“I have to go out there and be more consistent," Whitley insisted, "be better prepared and continue to do what I have been doing."

Both Whitley and the Yankees are committed to the long-term plan of staying in the starting role. In order for Whitely to have more success in such a role at the big league level he must improve his entire repertoire.

Once reliant on his plus changeup, he has been working tirelessly over the past two years to improve his slider and the progress he has made has been noticeable. In fact, he threw his slider 31.5 percent of the time in the big leagues last year and it shows his commitment to improving what many would deem the weakest part of his game.

"So far this year everything has been good," he said. "It’s just a matter of tuning everything and making everything more consistent. The slider has come a long way the past couple of years and it’s a good pitch for me.”

Being a former reliever has helped Whitely as a starter, however. Last year in the majors he had a 70.6 percent left on base percentage of stranding runners which is the league average, and above average for a rookie hurler. Pitching out of trouble is an important tool for a young player.

"One thing I try to focus on is slowing the game down," he said. "In those situations when things weren’t going my way, I feel like I was still in control. I go one pitch at a time and try to achieve what I am trying to do.”

After a good start once again in Triple-A Scranton this season, Whitely now has an opportunity to see if everything he has worked on has improved as he will be making a spot start for the Yankees on Tuesday, and has a chance to impress the decision makers in New York once again.


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