Baseball's top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley made his Minute Maid debut

Astros star prospect Whitley knocked around early

Forrest Whitley. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Baseball's best pitching prospect will start the season in the minor leagues and just like his pro baseball journey to this point his Minute Maid debut was filled with ups and downs.

Forrest Whitley tossed three innings, allowing six hits and three runs while striking out two. He threw 67 pitches with 43 being thrown for strikes. He mixed in his slider and changeup with a fastball that sat at or above 95 mph most of the night. He occasionally went to his curveball as well.

"This outing was pretty weird," Whitley said after his start. "I haven't had one of these in a while, kind of had everything but my fastball. It's kinda hard to pitch without the fastball without the number one."

The Pirates got to the 21-year-old early. After the lead-off batter singled to right Sterling Marte took a 1-2 offering deep to right field for a double. Later in the inning with a runner on first Pirates catcher Francisco Cerveelli would blast a 2-0 fastball for a no-doubter home run to left field. Whitley would recover for a strikeout of Melky Cabrera producing three swings and misses and the strikeout with his slider in the dirt.

He settled down in the second inning producing a groundout, flyout, and strikeout swinging with his fastball on 15 pitches. The third saw him induce a pair of groundouts before an infield single. Jung Ho Kang would square up a ball for a hard hit single that would draw pitching coach Brent Strom from the dugout. Whitley would force a flyout to end the inning and his day.

How was the first of hopefully many starts in the Astros home ballpark?

"It was cool," said Whitley. "Very cool stadium, a lot bigger than I anticipated but it was a good time for sure."

Whitley said spending time with veteran pitchers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole was very important for him this spring. He said the preparation routine of each pitcher was different but both resulted in positive outcomes. Whitley said while he learned about their routines, he will be exploring his own process ahead of his return to the majors.

The 6-feet-7 inch tall righty played all of last season for the Astros Double-A affiliate where he appeared in just eight games for the Hooks due to is 50-game suspension to start the season. He produced a 3.76 ERA in his minor league work last year. He also pitched in the Arizona Fall League where his ERA was 4.15. He will begin the 2019 campaign playing for the Astros Triple-A affiliate the Round Rock Express.

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