Chase Whitley is back in the Bronx this weekend as a relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was drafted by the Yankees in the 15th round of the 2010 draft and worked the system as a reliever.
He made his big league debut as a starter on May 15, 2014 against the Mets at Citi Field and Jacob deGrom, who was also making his big league debut. Whitley pitched in 24 games that season, including 12 as a reliever.
He made four starts in 2015 but was injured while on the mound in Tampa Bay and needed Tommy John surgery.
The Rays selected him off waivers that November, and Whitley pitched in five games late last season after recovering from the operation.
Whitley is 2-1 with two saves and a 3.21 ERA in 29 games this season. He took two minutes to talk to NY Sports Day before Thursday’s game.
NYSD: What is it like coming back for you against the team that drafted you?
Chase Whitley: Well, I came here last year, which was cool was my first game back from Tommy John surgery. So it’s always good to come back and I’m very, very thankful and grateful for them taking a chance on me.
NYSD: Was it easier or tougher going back to relieving? You went from reliever and starter and then starter to reliever. Which one was easier?
CW: I think whatever you’re doing is a challenge but I like the idea of pitching in as many games as possible, so I enjoy relieving. But at the same time I also like starting. They’re both difficult because you’re facing major league hitters, so it’s about making sure you stay focused and stay mentally prepared for what you’re doing.
NYSD: Did Tampa Bay say maybe you should be a reliever or was it something you brought up like maybe this would be better?
CW: No. It’s just one of those things where it’s just kind of how it fell this year. In spring training I started, I did my rehab as a starter last year and even did my outings last year, I know it was out of the pen, but I did them on a starter routine. I grew up in the Yankee organization as a reliever so it’s not new to me.
NYSD: What’s your favorite memory as a Yankee?
CW: I think just the whole idea of just playing for the Yankees. My debut, the guys I played with. Just overall man it was a good time there, and obviously playing Jeter’s final year which was pretty special.
NYSD: Did you grow the beard as soon as Tampa Bay signed you?
CW: This is something I do as soon as the season was over (laughing). I know it seems like that’s the popular thing for everybody to do but it’s just something that I do in the offseason.