Forrest Whitley entered his third Major League spring training last week. The Houston Astros added him to the 40-man roster in November 2020, but the former top prospect has yet to reach the show. Injuries, a suspension and a lost season in 2020 knocked Whitley off course from contributing to the World Series club.
Recovering from Tommy John surgery and returning to Triple-A in 2022, Whitley made 10 appearances for the Sugar Land Space Cowboys. The righty struck out 36 batters in 30 innings pitched but recorded a 7.09 ERA, missing his final start due to discomfort in his right lat during a bullpen, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle.
But as Whitley sets course for a successful and healthy 2023 season, his arsenal could look different, as a splitter is being toyed with this spring. Whitley made the decision this offseason to test out the pitch with Dynamic Sports Training, dropping the usage of his changeup in the process.
“It was more of changing the perception of the hitter from when he releases the ball,” said Edgar Martinez, a former bullpen catcher and assistant coach for Double-A Corpus Christi. “It blends in more and moves better. That may be the pitch that gets him to the show this year. He has MLB-grade pitches, but if he can stay consistent with them, he will debut (this season) in my opinion.”
The velocity between his splitter and his four-seam fastball sit in a similar range, and the two pitches tunnel off each other from being released in a similar window of 1-3 inches. But the less arm pronation Whitley pitches with, the less of a chance an opposing hitter will pickup a difference.
Whitley pitched his first bullpen Thursday, as he begins to ramp up for live action in the coming week. There is no guarantee Houston’s coaching staff has Whitley stick to the adjustment, but it’s a change to keep an eye on.