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.
It's a new year for the Houston Astros as they return to action for their first game of the spring against the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
Every season we see some adjustments to the roster which means we also see some changes in leadership. As Astros fans, we're all aware of Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker's contract situations. Breggy could be gone after the season, and Tucker could follow one year later.
Which means it's pretty clear who the leaders of the team will be for the foreseeable future. Not only are these guys two of the best players on the club, but they're also under contract for several more years. In Altuve's case, through the 2029 season. For Yordan, he won't sniff free agency until 2029.
While these guys aren't your typical vocal leaders, they are both highly respected and lead by example. Leadership is something that's front of mind for Yordan this season, according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome.
On Yordan Alvarez the leader, one of two constants in a clubhouse bracing for change and the responsibility he wants to shoulder as a result - https://t.co/sZGlI5taBQ
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 21, 2024
Another way to be a leader is to do everything you can to be available for your team. Alvarez changed his diet in the offseason hoping it will help him stay healthy this year.
Manager Joe Espada said Alvarez is fully healthy and he plans on playing him earlier than normal this spring.
Currently, Yordan is trending down in games played for three straight seasons. But he's such a great player that he needs fewer games to put up massive numbers.
He finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2022, and he only played in 135 games out of a possible 162.
So with that in mind, how many games does Yordan need to play this year to win an MVP?
Plus, who's going to protect him in the lineup? With new manager Joe Espada in place, it's hard to know what the lineup will look like.
One thing we do know, Espada immediately named Josh Hader his closer when spring training began. He also told the media that he wants Jeremy Pena to know where he's going to hit every day when he comes to the ballpark.
Espada values players knowing their roles, and getting comfortable in their routines. Something very different from last season when manager Dusty Baker moved Pena all over the lineup throughout the season.
So what does all this mean for Yordan?
Be sure to watch the video above as we break it all down!
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