Before the season started, it looked like the Yankees would have more than enough depth to weather a couple of injuries to their starting staff. It seemed as though they were seven, maybe eight Major League caliber starters on the team. But because baseball is cruel and being a starting pitching is as dangerous an occupation as lion tamer these days, the Yankees are out of bodies. When that happens, you either pull some more guys off the scrap heap or tap into the minors. For Thursday's tilt against the Mets, the Yankees have thankfully opted for the latter option by tapping rookie Chase Whitley for the start.
Jason Cohen profiled Whitley back in February for our ongoing prospect series when he had an outside opportunity to make the team a middle reliever. That opportunity was not in the cards for him, so he was sent back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for his third year at the level. A fifteenth rounder drafted out Troy University in 2010, Whitley has never sniffed any Top 100 prospect lists or even been on the radar of just Yankees prospect lists. So it's not fanfare and pedigree that has gotten Whitley this opportunity. The reason aside from necessity that you'll be seeing him tomorrow is simply because he has pitched very well. In his 26.1 innings he has yet to allow a home run, has a K/9 ratio near 11 and a better than 4/1 strikeout to walk ratio. He's posted a 2.39 ERA and 1.72 FIP during his seven appearances, six of which were starts. His WHIP is a sparkling 1.03, so he's certainly earned the opportunity with his stats thus far.
The report on Whitley is that he'll sit in the low nineties with his fastball, and offer a slider and adequate changeup. The fastball is said to have some natural sink to hit, and accompanied with his low homerun total might help keep him from offering up gopherballs like the rest of the Yankees staff has been doing. Also notable is that Whitley has only gone more than five innings twice in his eleven starts in the last two seasons. So even if he is effective, he might not be in the game that long.
It's unknown if this will be a spot start for Whitley or his chance to land a position in the rotation for the time being. The Yankees have a day off on Monday, so it will be interesting to see Joe Girardi plays it going forward. Vidal Nuno didn't do himself any favors with a bomb of a performance on Tuesday, so maybe Whitley can earn himself a prolonged stay with the big club if he has a good showing. Or he could also get bombed and disappear like many rookie starters before him. Regardless, he's deserving of the opportunity by virtue of having a great start to his 2014 season, so we'll hope he continues to impress. In the very least we get the excitement of a major league debut as opposed to the depression that most of the starters have been pushing us into.