Third baseman John Whittleman
began the 2007 season with the Clinton LumberKings for the second year in a row and hit .343 with nine home runs in the season's first two months. The performance earned Whittleman a spot in the MLB Futures Game during All-Star Weekend in San Francisco.
However, the 20-year-old struggled in the season's second half in Clinton and was eventually promoted to High-A Bakersfield for a change of scenery. He continued to slump at times with the Blaze, as he batted .240 with nine doubles and three home runs in 29 games. Whittleman continued to display outstanding patience, drawing 23 walks in only 104 official at-bats.
Whittleman is currently resting at home in Texas, but he will be leaving for the Fall Instructional League in Arizona in late-September. Lone Star Dugout recently spoke with the native of Kingwood, Texas.
Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on your season with Bakersfield?
John Whittleman: It was new scenery and a new experience. It was definitely good getting out of Clinton, seeing different stuff, and being in a new atmosphere. But as far as me being there playing-wise, it wasn't anything overwhelming. Pitchers had better secondary stuff and more control, which they're going to have as you go up. All in all it was a good experience and hopefully I won't be there long next year if I have to go back, if at all.
Cole: Did you feel that you wore down as the season went along?
Whittleman: No, not really. I had a couple of nagging injuries that were hurting me as I was performing. I wore down mentally more than physically. Every night and every day I was just trying to figure out what those pitchers were going to do to me. It's a grind. I thought I might have worn down a little bit mentally.
Cole: What exactly were the injuries?
Whittleman: It was a slight wrist sprain. I had to wear a wrist guard whenever I was sliding. It kind of nagged on me when I was hitting too. Little stuff like that. It wasn't enough to make me have to sit out, but it was enough that I felt it every time I went out.
Cole: Are you over the injuries yet?
Whittleman: No, not quite yet.
Cole: You walked quite a bit when you were in Bakersfield; I believe it was 23 times in 29 games. Why do you feel that was?
Whittleman: I thought I could've had more walks than what I had. I think it's definitely because of the umpiring. As you move up, the umpires are going to get better. They're learning at the lower levels just like we are. But I think I could have had more walks than I did, even though I did have 23 out of 29 games. I think the umpires are going to get better as you go up, the strike zone is going to shrink, and the better hitters are going to come out because the ball will be more around the plate.
Cole: You struggled against lefties in Clinton, but you hit .292 off them in Bakersfield. Did you make any adjustments against left-handed pitching?
Whittleman: No, actually I was struggling to hit lefties early in Bakersfield. I was 0 for 7 against them. But like anything new, they didn't know me and I didn't know them. I was hitting in the three-hole there, so they were pitching me tough there. Once I figured it out and got used to it, I didn't have too much of a problem. I didn't really change anything. I was just looking away and reacting in.
Cole: What were you working on at the plate during your time in Bakersfield?
Whittleman: Just smoothing everything out. Easier front thigh, front step – getting it down a little bit earlier. I'm trying to calm everything down instead of being herky-jerky up there.
Cole: You're going to instructs later this month. What do you plan on working on while you're there?
Whittleman: Probably a couple of different fielding things. Just my feet and throwing accuracy maybe. And hitting all around. Just getting more swings, keep working on the approach, calming the whole lower half down, and just smoothing everything out.
Third baseman John Whittleman was promoted to High-A Bakersfield after spending nearly two full seasons with the Clinton LumberKings. Lone Star Dugout has a Q&A with the 20-year-old prospect, who will be attending Fall Instructional League later this month.
Lone Star Dugout has a Q&A with third baseman John Whittleman, who will be attending instructs