First Pitch: Whitley's walk streak on the line

NEW YORK -- The advice was the same given to every pitcher on his way to the big leagues.

The difference is that Chase Whitley has been able to follow it.

It's the same game as in Triple-A. Throw strikes. Get ahead of hitters.

It's simple, until you're standing on the mound in a ballpark with an upper deck, with all eyes on you and hitters you've grown up watching standing 60 feet, 6 inches away. It's simple, until your heart is pounding and the strike zone seems to be shrinking, and one of those hitters has just hit your best pitch 400 feet.

Plenty of rookies have come to the big leagues with the reputation as a "strike thrower," only to have that reputation dissolve somewhere along the way.

Chase Whitley, it seems safe to say now, is a strike thrower. Pitching in the big leagues hasn't changed that, and pitching in the big leagues doesn't seem to have changed him.

Whitley makes his seventh start for the New York Yankees Wednesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays, and he enters it carrying a streak that's more than a little remarkable:

Whitley has gone four straight starts without walking a batter.

It's the longest streak by a Yankees starter since 2003 (David Wells). It's only one game short of the longest single-season streak by a Yankee starter in the last 100 years.

It wouldn't mean as much if Whitley were simply surrendering hits instead of walking batters. But he's not.

He has a 2.41 ERA (eighth among American League pitchers with at least six starts). He has won his last two starts (finishing the seventh inning in both of them), and the Yankees are 5-1 in the six games he has started.

At a time when the Yankees were desperate for help in the rotation, with three starters on the disabled list long term, Whitley has given the Yankees a chance to survive.

All because he followed Matt Daley's advice.

You may remember Daley, the 31-year-old journeyman reliever who has been up with the Yankees a couple of times this year. Or you may not.

All that really matters is that Chase Whitley remembers him, remembers what Daley told him, and has been able to put it to use.

"Matt Daley is a guy I've trusted the last couple of years," Whitley said Tuesday. "Whatever he says, I'm almost there with a notepad. And he told me it's the same game."

Whitley, the guy who wasn't really considered that much of a prospect but has come up to help keep the Yankees afloat, has made it look the same.

He had a 2.39 ERA in Triple-A, with seven walks and 32 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings. He has a 2.41 ERA in the big leagues, with three walks and 24 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings.

He has a tough assignment Wednesday against the Blue Jays.

"I respect every hitter in their lineup," Whitley said. "Just like I respect everybody's lineup."

It's the same game.

So many pitchers hear that. So few are able to make it look and feel the same.

So far, Chase Whitley has.