Whittleman is looking for his first ring
SAN ANTONIO, TX - Third baseman John Whittleman was impressive in his Double-A debut on Saturday night, going 2-for-3 with a home run and two walks. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the Kingwood native after his first Texas League game in this free preview of premium content!
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The Rangers promoted third baseman John Whittleman to Double-A Frisco on Wednesday afternoon. On Friday, Whittleman made quite the splash in his Texas League debut, going 2-for-3 with a home run and two walks. All three balls put in play by the 21-year-old were squared up and hit hard.
Whittleman had an up-and-down season with High-A Bakersfield, but he began to get hot at the right time, going on an 11-game hitting streak that began on the last day of July. After batting .444 [20-for-45] over that stretch, the streak was snapped by a game in which Whittleman was 0-for-0 with four walks.
Ian Kinsler’s recent injury with the big league club caused a chain reaction that reached all the way down to High-A Bakersfield. When Joaquin Arias was called up to fill Kinsler's roster spot, Frisco third baseman Adam Fox was promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma. That left the playoff-bound 'Riders without a third baseman, but Whittleman's promotion figures to help solidify things at the hot corner.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with the native Texan after his first game with the Frisco RoughRiders.
Jason Cole: First off, how does it feel to be up here in Double-A?
John Whitleman: It feels good. Obviously your goal is to get to the big leagues, but you’ve got to take it a level at a time. This was the next step. I feel like I’ve earned it – I deserve it. But at the same time, I’m still not satisfied with just getting here. I want to win a championship and these guys have something going good here, so hopefully I can just help them out, fill in here, and step it up.
Cole: When and how did they tell you that you were being promoted?
Whittleman: The last night in Stockton, on our road series. The manager calls you in, tells you that you’re going up, and I was excited – they were excited – for me. They just call you in there and say, ‘Hey, it’s time to go.’ They said I earned it, I deserved it, and to keep working hard.
Cole: Last year, you were promoted during the second half of the season and ended up missing out on the playoffs. This year, if you had stayed in Bakersfield, you would have probably missed the playoffs again. How does it feel to know that you’re finally going to get a chance to play for a ring?
Whittleman: It’s nice. We earned a playoff spot last year and I was part of that celebration. I got to celebrate with those guys, but unfortunately people move up. They need us at other levels. This year, I am fortunate enough to move up here and play with these guys. They’ve already got a playoff spot. Like I said, hopefully I can just fill in. They’ve got something good going here and a good group of guys. Everything has been good so far. Hopefully I can just get in there and keep playing.
Cole: Now that Adam Fox has gone up to Triple-A, are you expecting to play everyday at third base here?
Whittleman: I’ve been nursing this leg. I’m expecting to play a lot. I don’t think they would move me here if they didn’t want me to play and swing it. Thomas Berkery is here and he’s been playing all over the place this year. I think I’ve got to earn the right to play here, but at the same time, I think they moved me here for a reason.
If I need a day, there are guys that can fill in and I think they want me to be 100 percent healthy for the playoffs and stuff. I wouldn’t be surprised if I got a couple more days off before the year is over. But like I said, I think there are guys that are already here that can play third base. I think I’ve got to earn the right to play there. Those guys have earned the right to play and I can’t just come in and take their job. I have to play good, play hard, and just play the game right and I think I’ll be alright.
Cole: You mentioned the injury. Was it a hip flexor?
Whittleman: Hip flexor, yeah. It started out as a quad cramp and then it worked its way up to my hips. I was compensating when running and it made my hip flexor hurt more. It’s a hip flexor problem and you can’t really help it. You’ve just kind of got to take time off and take it easy. Hopefully it heals itself and ice will heal it.
Cole: How long have you been feeling that?
Whittleman: It happened probably about two-and-a-half or three weeks ago. It has been a nagging injury and it kind of just wore on me. Whenever I was in Bakersfield, I took a whole series off against Modesto and then came back in Stockton. Me and the manager kind of had an agreement that I wouldn’t blow it out on the bases. It’s one of those deals where it is a nagging injury but it takes time to heal.
Cole: You got pretty hot right before you sat out those games in Bakersfield. What did you feel led to that?
Whittleman: It’s just like with anything – you get hot and you have slumps then you get hot again. I had something good going there – I was just seeing the ball good and it seemed like everything I hit found a hole. It wasn’t one particular thing. I just got in a groove there and started swinging it better. Unfortunately I got hurt while I was in the middle of that and I had to sit out some. But like anything, you get hot and you get cold.
Cole: I asked you this about a month ago, but now that you’ve had that hot streak and gotten out of Bakersfield, how do you feel about your season as a whole there?
Whittleman: It’s good. You definitely want to get moved up and you want to do stuff well. When I talked to you last time, I said I wanted to finish strong and finish hot. I feel like I did get hot and I was hitting great up there. Against Stockton even, I was barreling up stuff but I just wasn’t getting hits. That’s the way it goes sometimes. I feel like the season has been great so far and hopefully I can come out of here with a ring.
Cole: What are your thoughts on your first game up here?
Whittleman: It was fun. Like I said, it’s a good group of guys to play with. It’s good to get the chance to play up here in this atmosphere. In the other leagues we have in our organization, there aren’t very many fans. It’s a grind everyday. But out here it makes it a little bit easier to play, especially with this group of guys. It was fun today.
Cole: When you were out there playing the game, did it feel any different than it did in Bakersfield?
Whittleman: You’re tired in Bakersfield, you get moved up, and you get a new burst of energy. I felt like I had a new burst of energy. Just basically a new team, new go-round, whole new thing. And the good thing is that I didn’t feel my leg tonight. That’s another good thing. I definitely felt a different burst of energy because you get out here with a new team and you want to show them what you can do, you want to help them out, and help them win.
Cole: This was your first game back in Texas. Did you have any friends and family in the crowd?
Whittleman: Oh yeah. I had my family – my mom and my dad. I had one of my best friends, some family friends, and my aunt and uncle were here. It was fun. They all got to see me play. They’ve only seen me play once this year, so my family got to see me for the second time this year, which is nice. It was good to have them out here.
Cole: Talk about the at-bat where you hit the home run.
Whittleman: Supposedly that guy has got a pretty good changeup. I’m still trying to learn these pitchers, so I’m picking these guys’ brains a little bit. But it was a first pitch fastball in for a strike and then he went slider up. Then he went slider down and I just got enough of it to get it out. I got it on the good part of the bat and it was a good feeling.
Cole: You crushed a ball earlier in the game that went just foul down the right field line. Did that one look fair off the bat to you?
Whittleman: Yeah, I thought it was fair. I thought it was even fair after it went over the pole, but the pole is not high enough. To me it looked like it went right over the pole and to him it went foul. It’s hit or miss, but it’s just one of those deals. Luckily I got one later.