Karsten Whitson’s career at the University of Florida started as many expected. After turning down a multi-million dollar contract from the San Diego Padres after going ninth in the draft coming out of high school, Whitson was named the National Freshman Pitcher of the Year by Perfect Game after he finished with an 8-1 record, 2.40 ERA and 92 strikeouts while helping the Gators get to the College World Series. He was poised to build on that beginning as a sophomore but was limited to just 14 appearances and 33.1 innings of work.
Shoulder surgery kept him on the sidelines last season and he was forced to watch his team stumble to a 29-30 record — one of the most challenging experiences he’s had to go through but one that he made the best of.
“It was tough. It was definitely tougher than I imagined but it was something that a lot of ballplayers go through,” he said. “It was something that I learned from and something that I’m better for.”
The year off gave him time to rest a shoulder that hadn’t had a real break since high school. He’s building back the strength in his arm and working towards getting back to the pitcher he was a freshman. He’s confident that he’s gotten past the injury and surgery and that he will make an impact. Whitson is excited to get back out there with his teammates and his teammates are certainly excited to see No. 22 back on the bump this spring.
“It was hard because that amount of talent was sitting on the bench. It’s hard as a player knowing that that’s there and it’s not accessible,” junior catcher Taylor Gushue said. “But, he has done a good job helping out our team this year. Now that the younger guys can look at him and they can see how he goes about his business on a day-to-day basis, I think that he will be a big factor on how well we do this year.”
A factor he will be. Whitson smiled when asked if he thinks about potentially being called to start the season opener on Valentine’s Day against Maryland saying, “I hope so. Yeah, I hope so. I definitely want it.”
If he does get the ball to start the season off it will be 613 days since he last pitched. It was just two outs — his last outing as a sophomore — but two outs that sent the Gators to Omaha. He’s been through a lot during his three years at Florida but with time to look back on everything that has happened in his career he wouldn’t change a thing.
“I’m at the greatest university in the country and I firmly believe that,” Whitson responded when asked if he regretted his decision to go to school. “I think I am with the best program, and it has been anything that I could have ever imagined it to be. I’ve grown a lot as a person and as a player. I’ve matured a lot and our coaching staff has supported me through everything, and the players as well.”