Garrett Whitlock to join Boston Red Sox as reliever: ‘Using him as a multi-inning weapon makes sense’

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CHICAGO — When Red Sox right-hander Garrett Whitlock returns from the injured list, he’ll be in the club’s bullpen.

Manager Alex Cora said earlier in the week the club were considering using Whitlock – who has been on the rotation since April 23 – as relief upon his return from his hip injury. On Saturday, Cora confirmed that plan. Whitlock will be used as a relief threat over multiple rounds similar to how he was used in his dominant rookie season in 2021.

“It’s very likely he’ll be in the bullpen,” Cora said. “We were talking about taking care of him and stuff, but it would be a bit like what we did last year. A multi-sleeved guy. When it comes to rehab, I don’t mean it’s easier, but it’s different.

Whitlock threw a bullpen and did some field drills ahead of Saturday’s game at Wrigley Field. He will likely face batters early next week and could begin a rehab assignment soon. Returning as a reliever will mean Whitlock can return sooner than if he remained in the rotation.

Putting Whitlock in the bullpen gives the Red Sox another good option to go with closer Tanner Houck and setup guys John Schreiber and Matt Strahm. Last season, Whitlock made 31 appearances over multiple innings, serving as Cora’s Swiss army knife in relief.

“It’s pretty similar to last year,” Cora said. “Obviously Tanner is doing what he is doing and (Schreiber) is doing the same thing. There will be days when they are down and he could go (round) eight and nine and finish it.

Whitlock started this year in the bullpen and dominated before being moved to a starting role in late April. He made nine starts before being sidelined with hip inflammation after a June 7 outing in Anaheim. Long term, Cora said, the Sox still view Whitlock as a candidate to start. But for the rest of 2022, he will be a reliever. Rich Hill’s knee injury didn’t cause the Red Sox to rethink their plan for Whitlock. The club will use rookies Josh Winckowski, Connor Seabold and Kutter Crawford – and maybe even Brayan Bello – to plug their rotation holes.

“For this year, we’re going to keep it short,” Cora said. “There are going to be days when it could go three. We will miss him for three or four days. But he’s going to be a multi-sleeved guy.

Whitlock has a 1.84 ERA and struck out 92 in 83 major league relief innings.

“He’s always a good pitcher, whether it’s the first inning or the ninth inning,” Cora said. “But using it as a multi-sleeve weapon, it makes sense for where we are and with the guys we have right now.”

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