By Steve Svetovich
Chase Whitley began the season with the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders before a successful call up to the parent New York Yankees April 27.
However, his moment in the sun lasted less than three weeks. After pitching through sudden elbow pain, the 6-3, 217-pound right hander exited a May 14 start in the second inning.
The diagnosis was a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of the right elbow. He had Tommy John surgery just eight days later and is not expected to return until the middle of the 2016 season.
Whitley, 25, was impressive in his first starting assignment of the year with the Yankees this past April 28. He was in the regular rotation pitching 19 and one-third innings. He was 1-2 with a 4.19 ERA. He allowed 20 hits, struck out 10 and walked only five batters.
Whitley was 4-3, with a 5.23 ERA after a call up to the Yankees last season. He pitched 75 and two-thirds innings, striking out 60 and walking 18.
He made his major league debut May 15, 2014 against the New York Mets at Citi Field. It was a day to remember with 2014 National League Rookie of the Year Jacob de Grom also making his major league debut. Whitley finished the game with a no decision, but the Yankees won the game, 1-0.
It was the first time since 1908 that both starters in a New York Yankees game were making their major league debut. Whitley pitched four and two-thirds innings, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out four and yielding no runs.
Whitley is a 2007 graduate of Ranburne High School in Ranburne, Alabama. He attended Southern University Community College before transferring to Troy University. He was drafted out of Troy in the 15th round of the 2010 major league draft.
He made his professional debut in 2010 as a relief pitcher for the Staten Island Yankees of the Class A Short Season in the New York-Penn League. He shined there as a closer with 15 saves and a sparkling 1.31 ERA. He was selected as a mid season all-star.
In 2011, he pitched for the Tampa Bay Yankees in the Class A Advanced Florida State League and for the Trenton Thunder in the Class AA Eastern League. He pitched 75 innings of relief in 42 games.
In 2012, he pitched middle relief for the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Triple-A club. In 2013, he was back in Scranton Wilkes-Barre. He pitched in 29 games, including five as a starter. His first start came in an emergency role. Soon after, the club began stretching out Whitley’s outings as a starter.
He started the 2014 season as a starter with the RailRiders before making his major league debut May 15, 2014. Besides pitching four and two-thirds scoreless innings in his debut, he also hit a single for his first major league hit.
Whitley earned his first big league win June 6, 2014 at Kansas City after limiting the AL pennant winning Royals to just two runs over seven innings.
Whitley has certainly seen his career take its share of twists and turns.
He was known more as a dangerous hitter and third baseman while playing for the University of Troy, but it was his performance on the mound that earned the Alabama native his first call to the Big Leagues.
Now the Yankees must wait until the middle of the 2016 season to see what twist or turn the promising career of Chase Whitley takes as he slowly recovers from Tommy John surgery.