If depth charts on starting pitchers in spring training were longer, Chase Whitley would have been the eighth man on a five-man rotation. Actually, he might have been lower than that, but he was the eighth starter used by the Yankees this season. Whitley has made the most of his opportunity. Until last night he had pitched exceptionally well. A reliever before this season, Whitley worked his pitch count up and increased his arm strength at the major league level. He was able to compile a 3-0 record and a 2.56 ERA. He was pitching like a top-flight starter.
Last night’s performance against the first place Blue Jays was more reminiscent of what happens when a converted reliever, number eight starter takes the hill against one of the best lineups in the American League. Whitley was hit hard. He was hit early. He was hit often. It was the kind of start that bloodies an ERA, but generally happens to all pitchers a few times a season. Or if you are Vidal Nuno, every time you touch a baseball. Whitely’s ERA rose to 4.07 after giving up eight runs on eleven hits and three walks in only 3 1/3 innings.
“It happens to every pitcher,” Joe Girardi said. “The greatest pitchers have bad nights. It’s part of it. It just pushes you for your next start.”
One bad start does not make a season. Whitley should be in no danger of losing his spot in the rotation any time soon. When looking at the full body of his work this season, it is clear that he belongs in the majors. He is probably not as good as he has been the first few months of his major league career, but he is probably not as bad as he was Monday night. He is a strike throwing machine who doesn’t walk many and can eat innings as a back of the rotation starter. And if Nuno can somehow retain his rotation spot despite doing his best Phil Hughes circa 2013 impression all season, Whitley should feel very comfortable with his job security after the first poor start of his career.