Understanding how rare a pitcher like Garrett Whitlock is

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It's a very small fraternity. Just ask Lenny DiNardo.

Up until this season, the current NESN analyst represented the last pitcher to stick with the Red Sox after being selected in the Rule 5 Draft. That was 17 years go.

It's not complicated to figure out why such a feat is so difficult considering any minor-leaguer selected as a Rule 5 draftee has to remain with the club taking him or be sent back to his original team. So for a pitcher to stick with a team with the payroll the size of the Red Sox, it's not an easy task. (For an in-depth look at how the Rule 5 Draft works, click here.)

"Nobody in my house gives me any credit for anything baseball-wise, so I can daydream and think, ‘For 17 years I was the man,'" DiNardo said in the latest installment of the City of Boston Credit Union's "Uniquely Boston" series.

DiNardo went on to pitch three seasons for the Red Sox (helping them win the World Series in 2004), ultimately landing with a six-year major league career.

The Red Sox have managed to hold on to Rule 5 picks prior to this season, with pitcher Vaughn Eshelman (1996), Javier Lopez (2002), DiNardo (2003) Adam Stern (2004), Josh Rutledge (2016), and Jonathan Araúz (2019).

But for the past 17 seasons, there have been no pitchers ... until Garrett Whitlock.

The Red Sox reliever is on track to becoming the most successful Rule 5 pick of the bunch, totaling a 1.38 ERA over his 27 appearances. Considering it's Boston and the major leagues, DiNardo understand how difficult the jump is for a guy like Whitlock.

"Absolutely," said DiNardo when asked how unique it is to emulate Whitlock's achievements. "I straight-up told him, I told him, ‘Listen, your stuff is way better than stuff I had.’ But it is a great feeling to see this kid go out there and compete day in and day out in high-leverage situations. When I was a Rule 5 guy I was the guy who was getting up in the first inning when the starter was getting knocked around. As soon as there was two or three walks in a row, I’m starting to stretch because I knew the writing was on the wall and I needed to start getting up. I developed into a role where I ended up making six starts for the Red Sox and you kind of see that with Whitlock. His stuff is that good. He’s working on that third pitch. He’s the type of guy who can go out there and fill any role, whether it’s middle relief, a one-out guy or maybe, possibly six innings at some point."

To see the entire interview, watch the video at the top of this post.