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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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