LOWELL -- Karsten Whitson is best known as a kid who chose college instead of $2.1 million -- and then got hurt.
And who has no regrets.
On Friday night, Whitson is expected to finally throw his first pitch as a professional. A 22-year-old right-hander drafted by the Red Sox in the 11th round last month out of the University of Florida, Whitson is the Lowell Spinners' scheduled starter in Troy, N.Y., versus the Tri-City ValleyCats.
"I'm definitely chomping at the bit," said Whitson, whose pro debut is happening four years after most people thought it would.
In 2010, the San Diego Padres drafted Whitson with the ninth overall pick in the first round out of Chipley (Fla.) High School.
But Whitson was not sure he was ready for the daily grind of professional baseball. He rejected a $2.1-million offer from the Padres and went to Florida.
He had Gator in his blood. Whitson's parents, Kent, who owns an electrical business, and Melissa, a middle-school teacher, are both Florida grads.
Still, a lot of people superimposed their values over Whitson's and question an 18-year-old for turning down $2.1 million.
What if he went to college and got hurt?
As it turned out, Whitson, after going 12-1 over his freshman and sophomore seasons at Florida, did wind up in the office of famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. He had shoulder surgery on Feb. 14, 2013.
"Doctor Andrews was my Valentine," joked Whitson.
Whitson missed Florida's entire 2013 season. The Washington Nationals still drafted him in the 37th round last June.
"I was actually out at dinner because I didn't expect to get drafted," said Whitson. "They just wanted to have the rights to me for the summer in case something happened."
Whitson never considered signing with the Nationals. "It was still an honor to get picked by them," he said.
Whitson returned to Florida this spring for his redshirt junior season. He pitched 37.1 innings over 14 appearances (9 starts). He went 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA, allowing 34 hits and 23 walks while striking out 21.
The Red Sox then became the third team in four years to draft Whitson, selecting the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder last month in the 11th round and reportedly signing him for $100,000.
Whitson said his 2014 season at Florida was a "roller coaster." Some days he felt close to pre-surgery form, other days he experienced setbacks.
"I knew whoever picked me was kind of sticking their neck out, saying, 'Hey, we believe in this kid and think he can return to form,'" said Whitson. "I think the Red Sox did that. Hopefully I can go out there and pitch well for them. Show them they got really good value."
In his final start for Florida, Whitson pitched six scoreless innings in a 2-0 loss to LSU in the SEC Tournament title game.
"So that was good," he said. "Hopefully when I get out there (Friday), I can draw from my last start. It was (six) weeks ago, but still it was good to end the (college) season like that."
Whitson, who had one year of eligibility remaining at Florida, says he is ready for pro ball. Four years ago as an 18-year-old, looking at those millions on the table from the Padres, he wasn't sure. He negotiated with the Padres up to the then-Aug. 18 deadline, then didn't sign.
Back in 2010, Whitson told Kendall Rogers of yahoo.com, "I would tell any kid out of high school they better be comfortable with going pro, because once you make that decision, you're 100 percent into that level of baseball. It's a grind and some players just aren't fully ready for it."
Florida won two SEC titles and reached two College World Series while Whitson was a Gator. He graduated in May with a degree in family, youth and community sciences.
"It's easy for people to ask, 'Do you have any regrets?'" said Whitson. "But at the end of the day, the main reason (for turning down $2.1 million) was I really wanted to pitch at Florida.
"Now I feel blessed to get an opportunity to play professional baseball, and to be with a great organization like the Red Sox," added Whitson. " I feel like I'm in good hands with them. They have a plan for me. It's up to me now to have fun and just go pitch."
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