Astros' Whitley lights-out in spring debut

Baseball's No. 7 prospect fans three over two perfect frames

Forrest Whitley has recorded 203 strikeouts over 137 1/3 innings in three Minor League seasons. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

By Staff | February 25, 2019 7:42 PM

Forrest Whitley said he was eager to face better competition this week. On Monday, he got his chance.

Houston's top prospect pitched a pair of perfect innings in relief of veteran Justin Verlander as the Astros and Mets played to a 3-3 tie in West Palm Beach, Florida. Whitley struck out three over the third and fourth innings.

Houston manager AJ Hinch said Saturday that he planned to use Whitley and J.B. Bukauskas -- the team's No. 8 prospect -- earlier in games this spring so the first-round picks could stare down batters with Major League experience rather than coming in during the later innings. Whitley got Tomas Nido to ground out on the first pitch he threw in the third before striking out David Thompson and Dilson Herrera swinging. In the fourth, he retired Jeff McNeil and Juan Lagares before fanning Mets No. 3 hitter Michael Conforto to end his afternoon.

"I want to make them uncomfortable and get them in an environment that they haven't been in before," Hinch said Saturday. "Obviously, the faster that they get acclimated to what we expect here, the more likely they are to be an answer if we need someone to call up."

Whitley, a 21-year-old righty from San Antonio, went 0-2 with a 3.76 ERA in eight relief outings last year with Double-A Corpus Christi in a season in which he was sidelined by a 50-game suspension and injuries to his lat and left oblique. He was the Astros' top pick in the 2016 Draft out of Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio.

Third baseman Nick Tanielu, a 26-year-old who spent last season at Triple-A Fresno, plated all three runs for Houston. Thompson had three RBIs for New York.

In other spring action:

Twins 7, Orioles 1

Despite the score, Orioles prospects played a bigger role in Monday's action in Fort Myers. No. 12 prospect Hunter Harvey, who hadn't pitched in a game since June 1 due to shoulder issues, returned to give up two earned runs and two hits while striking out one in his one inning of relief. Both runs scored on a homer by Byron Buxton in the fifth. No. 19 Luis Ortiz didn't fare much better, surrendering two earned runs on three hits in two frames. No. 1 Yusniel Diaz and No. 15 Richie Martin both went 1-for-2, while No. 2 Ryan Mountcastle and No. 25 Drew Jackson were held hitless in two at-bats apiece. For the Twins, Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker and Wander Javier went a combined 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Box score

Phillies 12, Tigers (ss) 7

After spotting Detroit five runs, Philadelphia roared back with 11 runs over two innings to pull away from the hosts in Lakeland. Phillies No. 7 prospect JoJo Romero got the start and allowed one run on two hits over two frames. The run came on a first-inning blast by Tigers No. 6 prospect Christin Stewart, who belted 25 homers for Triple-A Toledo and two more for Detroit last season. Stewart later added a single. Right-hander Franklin Perez, the Tigers' No. 3 prospect, had a strong spring debut, allowing one hit in a scoreless seventh. Perez was limited to just seven starts in 2018 after suffering a right lat strain and shoulder soreness. Box score

Braves 9, Nationals 4

A pair of talented outfielders took center stage in Atlanta's win at home. No. 37 overall prospect Cristian Pache doubled in three runs during a four-run sixth for the winning side, while No. 4 Victor Robles went 1-for-2 with a walk, a stolen base and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot for Washington. Braves catching prospect Alex Jackson hit a two-RBI double, No. 38 overall prospect Austin Riley struck out in all three of his plate appearances and No. 32 Ian Anderson fanned one and walked one in a scoreless inning of relief. Nationals pitching prospects didn't fare as well with James Bourque giving up four earned runs on two hits and two walks in one frame, while Wil Crowe served up two earned runs on three hits in the same span. Box score

Tigers (ss) 3, Cardinals 3

Detroit's No. 8 prospect Daz Cameron reached base twice out of the two-hole, going 1-for-2 with a double. Dustin Peterson, the team's 11th-ranked prospect, ripped an RBI single to right in the second, and No. 14 prospect Gregory Soto allowed an unearned run on one hit and one walk while striking out one in his lone inning out of the bullpen. Cardinals No. 18 prospect Jake Woodford started and allowed two runs on two hits and one walk while fanning one in two innings. No. 12 prospect Dylan Carlson went 1-for-3 after entering for Jose Martinez in left field, and 30th-ranked prospect Connor Jones struck out one in a perfect eighth. Box score

Pirates 4, Red Sox 3

Pittsburgh's No. 17 prospect Lolo Sanchez smacked a two-out RBI single in the eighth for the decisive run as Pittsburgh improved to 3-0 in Grapefruit League play. Shortstops Cole Tucker and Kevin Newman, both among the club's top 10 prospects, combined to go 0-for-3. For Boston, which suffered its first loss of the spring, top prospect Michael Chavis went 0-for-2 with a strikeout, but is batting .429. Red Sox No. 30 prospect Jhonathan Diaz took the loss, allowing three runs on a hit and three walks in two-thirds of an inning. Box score

Rangers 11, Indians 5

Ranked Texas relief prospect Brock Burke (No. 9) and C.D. Pelham (No. 15) tossed one scoreless frame apiece, with Burke striking out the side, as the Rangers thumped host Cleveland at Goodyear Park. Lefty Taylor Hearn (No. 11) fared less well, yielding a two-run homer to Indians second baseman Ernie Clement in the eighth. Texas used a nine-run eighth to capture its first win in Cactus League play. Box score

Offseason MiLB include

Cubs (ss) 6, Padres 4

Top San Diego prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. singled and scored a run in two at-bats. Third-ranked Francisco Mejia started at designated hitter and went 1-for-3, and No. 23 prospect Hudson Potts manned the hot corner and doubled with a run scored. Cubs No. 23 prospect Zack Short went 1-for-2, and ninth-ranked prospect Duane Underwood Jr. allowed one run on two hits in one inning out of the bullpen. Box score

Angels 4, Brewers 3 

Fourth-ranked Brewers prospect Lucas Erceg homered and doubled in his only two at-bats, while No. 2 prospect Corey Ray went 1-for-2 and third-ranked Brice Turang singled and scored on Erceg's double in the ninth. Eighth-ranked Zack Brown started and walked one in a scoreless inning, and No. 12 Marcos Diplan tossed a perfect fourth frame with one strikeout. Box score

Dodgers 11, Cubs (ss) 2

A few Los Angeles prospects chipped in to the blowout win at Camelback Ranch to begin the week. Batting ninth and getting the start at shortstop, No. 70 overall prospect Gavin Lux doubled, drove in a run and scored as part of his 1-for-3 day at the plate. Corner infielder Matt Beaty went 2-for-3 with an RBI, and Will Smith went 1-for-3 with a run scored as the designated hitter. Cubs No. 20 prospect Trent Giambrone was a lone bright spot for his side, going 2-for-4 with a leadoff homer out of the leadoff spot. Box score

Giants 4, White Sox 4

No. 40 overall prospect Luis Robert got to show off some of his trademark speed. He went 1-for-3 with a triple, two RBIs and a run scored in the game, while No. 3 Eloy Jimenez exhibited some of his own by picking up a stolen base while going 1-for-3. Left-hander Kodi Medeiros allowed just one hit and one walk in two scoreless frames, while right-hander Jose Ruiz fanned two and gave up two hits in his scoreless inning of relief. Aramis Garcia and Abiatal Avelino each went 0-for-2 with a strikeout for the Giants. Box score

Rockies 12, Royals 6

Colorado's No. 3 prospect Garrett Hampson hit a two-run homer and an RBI single in two at-bats while scoring twice. Raimel Tapia -- who batted .302/.352/.495 with Triple-A Albuquerque in 2018 -- led off the game with a home run and went 3-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs. Rockies No. 17 prospect Ben Bowden and No. 20 Jesus Tinoco combined to allow one hit with one strikeout in two scoreless frames. Box score

Mariners 11, Reds 3

Two of Seattle's promising youngsters contributed heavily in the blowout victory. Seventh-ranked Kyle Lewis slugged a two-run homer and singled in his first-ever Cactus League game and No. 4 Evan White singled and scored in the seventh before capping the Mariners' scoring with an RBI double in the eighth. David McKay (No. 25) closed out the game, allowing a hit while striking out a batter in his lone inning. Reds No. 5 prospect Tony Santillan worked around a hit and a walk in a scoreless frame. Box score

D-backs 4, Athletics 3

Top Arizona prospect Jazz Chisholm drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk and No. 26 Domingo Leyba doubled, singled and stole a base as the D-backs rallied to victory. Second-ranked Jon Duplantier walked one and struck out a pair in two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. A's No. 9 prospect Sheldon Neuse doubled in four at-bats while No. 13 Luis Barrera singled and scored on a steal of a home. Box score

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More