Friday was a whirlwind day for Chase Whitley. The Ranburne graduate woke up a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays and went to bed that night the newest member of the Atlanta Braves 40-man roster.
First came a phone call from Rays general manager Erik Neander to tell Whitley he had been claimed off waivers by Atlanta. The conversation, which could have been over in a few seconds, lasted several minutes.
“It was a ‘mutual respect between me and them’ conversation,” Whitley said Wednesday.
Shortly thereafter, the newest member of the Braves got a call from Alex Anthopoulos, Atlanta’s recently hired president of baseball operations and general manager.
“He said, ‘You had a pretty good year last year. I believe there’s more in there,’ Whitley recalled. “Obviously, he hasn’t met me at all so he doesn’t even know what I feature but I will honestly look at him and say I feel the same thing. There were times this year when I didn’t like anything I was doing out there but somehow I was getting by. I think that’s something that I’m very encouraged about, the fact of how last year went. I’m really looking forward to it.”
“Just the fact that their head guy was the one that called me, to me that’s encouraging,” Whitley added.
By the end of the day Friday, another member of the Rays’ front office had called “and had a lot of nice things to say” and Rays’ manager Kevin Cash called Saturday.
Whitley said there was some mention about him resuming a role as a starting pitcher for Atlanta but that was still up in the air.
“My bet is just going to camp and expect to start,” he said. “That way I can always go backwards and go to the pen. It’s basically the same thing I’ve been doing. … Whether it be in the bullpen or it be in the rotation, I think there’s a good opportunity there.”
Whitley said he had looked at Atlanta’s current roster and found only one player with whom he had played – relief pitcher Jose Ramirez – and that was early in his time in the New York Yankees’ farm system. He’s spoken with people whose opinions he values about some of his new teammates.
“There are some guys I think I probably will relate to so I’m looking forward to that but we’ll wait and see how it all plays out,” he said.
In past years, the Braves have organized throwing sessions for their pitchers in Atlanta during January, prior to the start of spring training.
“I would be open to that, too.” Whitley said. “It would make things a lot easier just going right over there to throw my bullpens or whatever. I guess I’ll just wait and see. Everything usually starts up at the first of the year. I think I’m going to start playing catch next week but not anything major.”