Garrett Whitlock has become the Red Sox' not-so-secret weapon

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The night belonged to Dustin Pedroia. The season? Garrett Whitlock used Friday to claim another pretty large chunk of the conversation.

The storyline of Whitlock -- one of the best Rule 5 pickups in recent memory -- pitching against the team that gave up on him, the Yankees, will always be a feather in the Red Sox' fans' collective cap.

This time, a couple hours after Pedroia emerged from the flames to be feted on the Fenway field, Whitlock dominated his old buddies from New York with two innings of one-hit baseball.

Considering the fact that the Red Sox were left clinging to a one-run lead after just 3 2/3 innings from starter Martin Perez, and another 1 1/3 innings out of Hirokazu Sawamura, this was important stuff from the rookie.

But, at this point, the end result in what would end up as a 5-3 win over the Yankees shouldn't have come as a surprise.

This is a pitcher who has given up one earned run in his last 15 2/3 innings, and someone who now has an MLB-leading 10th scoreless relief appearances of at least two innings. (No other pitcher has more than seven.)

But what now?

Perhaps Whitlock keeps going down this road, serving as the fail-safe for starters who can't seem to manage even five innings. Or maybe he becomes the other former Yankee -- joining Adam Ottavino -- in serving as the eighth-inning bring to Matt Barnes.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, we start a different conversation.

It's starting to feel like the Red Sox might need reliable starting pitching more than anyone thought a month ago. And while Chris Sale is pitching to hitters trying to hit Saturday for the first time since his Tommy John surgery, that return is still seemingly about a month away.

The Whitlock-to-rotation conversation was supposed to be reserved for 2022. Now, it's fair to at least entertain a different way to use the rookie.

Besides the obvious results, another reason we can at least dabble in the idea of Whitlock taking on a more expansive role is because of the pitcher's expanding repertoire. No longer is he a really good two-pitch pitcher. Now he is a really good pitcher with three really good pitches.

We were introduced to the 96 mph hop-skip-and-a-jump fastballs, along with a changeup Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez called the most unique offering of anything he had caught from this staff.

Now we have that slider.

Keep in mind, Whitlock's professional existence prior to this season was that of a starting pitcher, having started 38 of his 42 minor-league outings. It's not as much as an outside-the-box idea as some might think.

All of it is why the possibility is an intriguing one.

Heading into July, the Red Sox' starting staff is still a work in progress. Garrett Whitlock is not. He's already there. His status as legitimate weapon has been defined.

Seems like it might be a pretty good fit.