Had Tuesday merely represented his first time on the mound in a major league spring training game, that would have been momentous enough for Red Sox pitcher Garrett Whitlock.
But the outing represented so much more than that to the lanky righthander. It was also the first time he had been in a competitive environment since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2019.
All of which might have made the results of secondary importance. But as an added bonus, Whitlock was sharp in two scoreless innings (one hit allowed, two strikeouts) against the Tampa Bay Rays, making the day a complete success all around.
Whitlock was selected by the Sox in the Rule 5 draft from the New York Yankees last December, which means he has to remain on the team's 26-man roster (or the IL) for the entire regular season. That makes for a big jump for someone who has never pitched above Double A, but Tuesday represented a good first step toward that goal.
"You can see the stuff,'' said Alex Cora after the Red Sox' 9-3 win. "I'm happy for him, that he was able to go out there and compete. It hasn't been easy for him to keep building up. Seeing him (do what he did), that was good.''
"It was a lot of fun to go out there and compete,'' said Whitlock. "To be in that situation was really exciting and fun.''
Following the arduous rehab of the last two years, Whitlock now feels completely healthy, and in his own words, "ready to get after it.''
The Red Sox are bullish on his prospects, too, believing that, in time, he can evolve into a valuable pitcher who can induce a lot of groundouts and perhaps contribute as a back-end starter. For now, with a bolstered rotation and some additional depth candidates (Matt Andriese, Nick Pivetta), Whitlock appears ticketed for the bullpen.