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Is Garrett Whitlock’s dominant outing in a minor league game the last step before he’s named to the Red Sox starting rotation?

“This was by far the best spring outing for me,” said Whitlock.
In 5⅔ shutout innings on Wednesday, Whitlock faced 20 Twins batters, struck out 10, walked none, and had only one ball travel beyond the infield in the air. He allowed three hits while throwing 57 of 73 pitches for strikes, had just one three-ball count, and induced 14 swings and misses.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Yes, it was a minor league spring training game, and yes, it took place in a nearly empty, friends-and-family crowd at JetBlue Park. Still, in his last outing before camp breaks, Garrett Whitlock put an exclamation point on his case for a rotation spot.
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Whitlock carved the Twins with an arsenal that he used to get to all parts of the zone, featuring a worm-killing sinker while getting swings and misses on his changeup, slider, sweeper, and an intriguing new offering that left lefties flailing. (His lone struggle was in his attempt to locate his cutter on the arm side of the plate.) Whitlock said he developed his latest pitch in a recent bullpen session and used it against hitters for the first time Wednesday.
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“That’s the new toy,” said Whitlock. “It’s definitely something I’m going to use going forward.”
With that “new toy,” Whitlock added to the impression that his arsenal is more rounded than it has been in the past. For most of his big league career, he’s worked with three pitches — a sinker, changeup, and one version of a slider. This spring, while his sinker and slider have remained his primary offerings, he’s shown confidence in a sweeper with horizontal movement and gyro slider with more north-south action. And his cutter — though a work in progress — shows potential to further vary looks.
“I feel like I’m coming in with a completely different arsenal than in years past,” said Whitlock.
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He used the whole bag of tricks on Wednesday. Was that the mix of a starter?
“One hundred percent,” said pitching coach Andrew Bailey. “He’s got the ability to do a lot of special things.”
For Whitlock, there was considerable satisfaction in the healthy conclusion of a buildup to the season. For the first time in years, he had an offseason where he was able to focus on building up and improving rather than recovering and rehabbing from injury. With that foundation, he feels like a better pitcher than at any point in his Red Sox tenure.
Whitlock seems like a near-certainty for a rotation spot. That said, the 27-year-old — who is next expected to start an exhibition game in Texas against the Rangers next week — has yet to be given any word to that effect from the Red Sox.
In the past, he might have been anxious for a verdict. That’s not the case this spring. Instead, Whitlock said his perspective has been altered profoundly by the death of his brother, Gavrie, who drowned last September.
“My whole approach has changed drastically,” said Whitlock. “I’m coming at this season with complete joy, just never taking for granted that I get a chance to pitch in the big leagues. That’s why I’m in that mode of, if I’m a starter, amazing; if I’m a reliever, amazing. I get to freakin’ play baseball. That’s the coolest thing in the world to me. I’m just gonna go out compete with everything I got. Wherever it lines up, you’re gonna get my best.”
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Jansen throws off mound
On an offday for the rest of the big league team, Kenley Jansen — who’d been dealing with lower-back stiffness — reported to JetBlue Park for a workout that concluded with a throwing session off a bullpen mound. If he reports to the field on Thursday without any setbacks, he’ll pitch in a game. Jansen stayed at the field after his workout to watch part of Whitlock’s outing from the dugout. He was joined by Nick Pivetta … Lefthander Chris Murphy left to seek a second opinion on the ligament damage in his pitching elbow. Tommy John surgery is a possibility for the 25-year-old … The Sox narrowly averted disaster in their Triple A game when middle infielders Nick Yorke and Nick Sogard crashed into each other on a grounder up the middle. Both remained on the ground for several moments, with Sogard seemingly sliding into Yorke’s torso. Initially, Yorke seemed to bear the brunt of it, but while he stayed in the game, Sogard exited after pulling up while running down the line.
Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him @alexspeier.

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