Sports Q

Sports Q: Who is the Red Sox’ all-time best out-of-nowhere success story?

The question is inspired by the recent emergence of reliever Garrett Whitlock.

Koji Uehara celebrates with teammates following Game 6 of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park in Boston, Oct. 30, 2013. Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe

Welcome to Boston.com’s Sports Q, our daily conversation, initiated by you and moderated by Chad Finn, about a compelling topic in Boston sports. Here’s how it works: You submit questions to Chad through TwitterFacebook, and email. He’ll pick one each weekday to answer, then we’ll take the discussion to the comments. Chad will stop by several times per day to navigate. But you drive the conversation.

Who is the last Sox player/prospect to come literally out of nowhere and look great the way that Garrett Whitlock has this season? As fun as it’s been to make fun of the Yankees for letting Whitlock go in the Rule 5 draft, a Double-A sinker baller coming back from Tommy John surgery  turning into Alex Cora’s most trusted bullpen arm (even if he might never publicly say that) is something no one ever expected — certainly not the Red Sox. I can’t think of a player who’s come out of nowhere for the Red Sox and been so darn good. – Andrew M.

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Yeah, one of the most satisfying among the Red Sox’ many highlights in their three-game sweep of the Yankees over the weekend was watching Adam Ottavino and Whitlock record key outs – probably the key outs – on Saturday and Sunday.

Whitlock is looking like an all-timer of a find halfway through his rookie season, that’s for sure. In 38 innings over 22 appearances, he has a 1.42 ERA, 40 strikeouts, a 1.16 WHIP, and an adjusted ERA of 320. He’s given up one earned run over his last 11 appearances, spanning 17 innings. And his repertoire is deep enough that it’s easy to envision him being a quality starting pitcher down the road.

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Whitlock embodies the kind of find fans hoped Chaim Bloom would make when he came over from the crafty Rays to become president of baseball operations before last season. But you can never anticipate a find like this.

But who else has come out of nowhere in Red Sox lore to become a crucial contributor? Andrew suggested a few in the email with the original question, and they were good ones: Bill Mueller in 2003 (when he won the batting title), Koji Uehara emerging as the most trustworthy closer the Red Sox have ever had in 2013, and probably the best suggestion, Daniel Nava coming up in 2010 and hitting a grand slam in his first at-bat. Nava, an independent ball find, hit .303 with 12 homers for the ’13 World Champions.

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I’d also add Shea Hillenbrand to this list. He made the club unexpectedly out of spring training in 2001, and ended up hitting 12 homers that season. The next season, he hit .293 with 18 homers and made the All-Star team. He was the kind of player whose limited skills were exaggerated by conventional stats, but he had his moments.

I think my choice would be Nava. He wasn’t even supposed to stick in affiliated ball, let alone be a quality player on a World Series champion. But Whitlock is coming on strong. What a find.

What does everyone else think? Who is the Red Sox’ all-time best out-of-nowhere success story? I’ll hear you in the comments.

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