It’s been a wild journey this season for flame-throwing righty Colby White. For the third time in his first full pro season, the West Marion alum is receiving a promotion to Triple-A Durham, an unprecedented rise for a player who had just one JUCO offer coming out of high school.
It takes a truly incredible season to be promoted two levels, but to be promoted three times is more rare than a major league pitcher throwing a perfect game. But White, who turned a great two-year stint at Pearl River Community College into a closing role at Mississippi State, has proven to be the exception in 2021.
“It’s been wild, but as crazy as this sounds, I kind of expected it. Obviously, I didn’t really expect to climb another level this year, but I expected to be able to compete at this level this year,” he said. “I was thinking about that at spring training this year. I was hoping to break camp at High-A or Double-A and work to this point. When I broke in at Low-A, I wasn’t exactly disappointed, but I expected a little more.”
White actually got the chance to pitch in his home state this week against the Mississippi Braves out of the Montgomery Biscuits bullpen. Pitching in front of many of his friends and family, the closer lit up the radar gun. He threw the fastest pitch of his career Wednesday, going well over triple digits with a fastball that got clocked at 101.2 miles per hour.
“I felt good and was in sync. I had a couple fans there, so I wanted to get really on a couple of them. That’s the hardest I’ve ever thrown in my life,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”
He got to hang around and chat with his family after the game, but when he walked off the field, his pitching coach stopped him and told him Biscuits manager Morgan Ensberg needed to speak with him. White’s first thought was he missed the bus, but the further he walked down the hallway it donned on him he might be getting called up.
When he entered Ensberg’s office, White said there were a bunch of guys in there, including his area scout, that broke the news to him.
“It was awesome,” he said Thursday morning while waiting for his flight to North Carolina in the Atlanta airport. “It’s crazy. I’ve been blessed to get this opportunity to continue to keep playing baseball for a month. That’s the biggest thing — the season is a little longer in Triple-A because of the expanded rosters at the big league level.”
After the 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, White began the season in Charleston for the Low-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. After not allowing a single earned run and posting a sterling 36:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 1/3 innings, he was called up to High-A Bowling Green. He kept the dominance going in 23 1/3 innings for the Hot Rods, leading him to get called up to Double-A Montgomery Aug. 10.
Remarkably, White was somehow even better in Double-A than he was at both Low-A and High-A, posting a better WHIP (walk plus hits per inning pitched) and batting average against with the Biscuits. In 13 innings for Montgomery, he surrendered just four hits and three walks while striking out 19 batters. His WHIP was a miniscule 0.54, his batting average against was just .095 and his ERA was a sterling 1.38.
And now, less than a month later after getting bumped to Double-A, White is at his final stop before potentially reaching Tampa Bay.
For the season, the former Trojans star has fanned 90 batters while walking just 11 in 52 2/3 innings. He sports an incredible 1.37 ERA, has a batting average against of .114 and a 0.59 WHIP. For comparison, the average big league ERA is 4.32, the average batting average against is .238 and the average WHIP is 1.29.
It’s unlikely that White will be promoted again this season to the big leagues because he currently isn’t on Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster and the Rays likely want to see him perform against Triple-A batters. Players have to be on the 40-man roster to play in the majors. While he technically could be added to the 40-man roster and get called up before the end of the regular season, he wouldn’t be able to join the playoff-bound Rays in the postseason. Players have to be on the 40-man roster prior to Sept. 1 to be eligible for the postseason.
White said he realizes how close he is to the big leagues, but he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself because he knows he still has a ton of work he has left to do to prove himself at Triple-A.
“But it’s definitely crossed my mind that the next time I get called into the office, I’m going to be a big leaguer,” he said. “That’s exciting. It’s crazy how quickly this stuff has happened. This is my first full season, and I’m in Triple-A. It’s pretty cool.”