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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
5 Aug 2023
Gabrielle Starr


NextImg:Red Sox notebook: Whitlock, Houck, Sale working way back

Garrett Whitlock took a key step forward on Saturday, facing hitters in a multi-inning live batting practice.

“I think it was good,” Alex Cora said. “(Velocity) was up, the shape of the pitches were good.”

This is the second injured list stint of the year for the 27-year-old right-handler, who last pitched on July 10. As he prepares to begin a rehab assignment, The organization’s resolve to keep him in the rotation seems to be softening.

Whitlock was a member of the Boston bullpen for his entire stellar rookie season in 2021, when he finished the season with a 1.96 ERA across 46 appearances, including 11 games finished and a pair of saves. Over 73 1/3 innings, he struck out 81 batters, issued 17 walks, and only gave up 16 earned runs.

Last season, the Red Sox attempted to transition Whitlock into the rotation, as he’d worked his way up the minor leagues as a starting pitcher. They moved him from the bullpen in late April, then returned him to the bullpen in July. Hip surgery ended his season in mid-September.

This year, the Red Sox announced that Whitlock would begin the season in the starting rotation. They remained firm on that through his first stint on the injured list, but now appear to be pivoting. He owns a 5.23 ERA across 10 starts totaling 51 2/3 innings, but after spending most of the season in the starting rotation, his manager says there’s a “good chance” he’ll move to the bullpen when he returns.

In other injury-related news, Trevor Story (UCL) will serve as the designated hitter on Saturday and play shortstop on Sunday for Triple-A Worcester. “We’ll reassess the situation on Monday,” Cora said.

While Story initially pointed to Friday as his return date, he decided that he wanted a little more time in the minors. His rehab assignment expires on Wednesday.

Tanner Houck (facial fracture) will pitch for Worcester on Saturday, with Chris Sale (shoulder) starting the Sunday series finale in Syracuse. The latter is expected to pitch four innings in his second rehab game.

Nothing’s new with Corey Kluber, who’s been on the IL since June 21 with right shoulder inflammation.

Ceddanne Rafaela continues to dominate in Triple-A. On Friday night, Boston’s No. 2 prospect set a WooSox record by homering in his fourth consecutive game.

Since his promotion to Triple-A, Rafaela has hit 10 homers in 29 games, but in the eyes of WooSox manager Chad Tracy and Alex Cora, the power surge isn’t even the best part of the burgeoning star’s development.

“The one thing that we always want to see from him, regardless of the numbers, is controlling the strike zone,” Cora said on Saturday afternoon. “He’s very unique in what he does, because he chases pitches, but he’s hitting.”

Patience at the plate is still a work in progress for Rafaela, but he’s made strides recently. After only drawing one walk over his first 13 games of July, he’s drawn six in 13 games since, including a very patient game earlier this week.

“The other day, I think he hit a homer and walked four times,” Cora said. “That’s a great game for me.”

“I actually spoke to Chad today,” the Red Sox manager added. “He’s very pleased with the way Rafaela is playing. The effort, obviously the defense, and the at-bats are getting better.”

Given his breakout performance in Double-A last year and this year being his first time at major league spring training, many expected the Red Sox to promote Rafaela to Triple-A at the beginning of the season. Plate discipline was one of the main reasons they opted to hold off, with sources telling the Herald that the organization wanted their top outfield prospect to be able to make certain adjustments, such as plate discipline, in Double-A, rather than doing so while also adjusting to a new level of play.

After being designated for assignment earlier in the week, Jorge Alfaro officially elected free agency on Saturday, bringing an end to his second Red Sox stint of the season.

Double-A Portland placed Marcelo Mayer on the 7-day injured list on Saturday with shoulder inflammation. Over his last 10 games, the Red Sox No. 1 prospect hasn’t looked like himself. He hit .146 with a .466 OPS, only collecting six hits, one RBI, and three walks, with 18 strikeouts over that span.

In the second game of his professional career, Boston’s first-round pick Kyle Teel went 3-for-3 with a walk, his first home run, and a pair of RBI for the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox.