Allen Webster is in the midst of what I would call a ‘tryout’ at the moment.
Today against the Padres was his 3rd straight start for the Red Sox and a telling sign that John Farrell and company want to figure out what this kid is made of before they make a decision on whether to acquire another starting arm before the deadline.
Webster was acquired in the widely-known trade between the Sox’ and Dodgers last season as a key component to the trade, that also included Rubby De La Rosa. The 23-year-old’s consistent work in Pawtucket earlier this year is the reason he has been the first young starting pitcher the Red Sox have called upon. He posted a 5-1 record with a 2.98 ERA in 51.1 IP in AAA. Webster’s makeup consists of a three pitch arsenal: fastball(92-94 mph), change-up(84 mph), and slider(81-83 mph). His fastball has a lot of zip and sinking movement on it making it difficult for right handers to hit if located correctly. His change-up reminds me of the one Buchholz throws, and is by far his best pitch. The slider is a work in progress as far as locating and executing it consistently, but I have seen him use it a few times when he’s ahead in the count and it’s a promising pitch. All the sources say Webster has a curveball, and that may be true, but I haven’t seem him throw one so I didn’t include it, simple as that.
His major league debut came on April 21st against Kansas City, a game in which Webster appeared poised and under control for a guy making his first start in the bigs. However, that game was a spot start for a day/night doubleheader, and Webster was promptly sent back down following his outing.
His next start wouldn’t come until a few weeks later against the Twins in a forgettable appearance where he only survived 1.2 IP before Sheriff Farrell came to get the ball from him. As a player, I know your supposed to be ready anytime to take the ball, but I don’t think the everyday person realizes how hard it is for a minor leaguer to be bounced around and not know where they are going to be on a day to day basis.(That’s the only excuse i’ll use for a Webster bad start, I promise).
Since June 22nd, Webster has been given the chance to make consecutive starts and I don’t think anybody within the organization could be upset with the results. For an unexperienced pitcher trying to figure out how to pitch to professional hitters, I think his arrow is pointing upwards. The start against the Tigers, he had a rough time getting out of the first inning, but settled down nicely, only giving up the four runs. June 28th against Toronto, Webster went a solid 6 innings pitched, relinquishing four runs on six hits. As usual, the box score doesn’t tell the story because he looked in control during that start, blanking them through the first four innings.
Finally, today against the Padres was perhaps his best start to date. He lasted another 6 innings, allowing only two runs and five hits, and got his first career win in the majors on a sunny Independence Day in Fenway Park. A big moment in today’s game was in the 3rd inning, Webster was cruising until the 3rd where he kind of lost it a bit. He walked a couple batters, and hit another, and found himself in a stressful situation with the bases loaded and nobody out. I think in past starts, he might have lost some confidence and given up the big hit, but today he bared down. After allowing one run in the inning, Webster was facing Jesus Guzman with two men on when he threw strike three on the inside corner, except for the fact that it wasn’t called strike three, because some umpires have a grudge against giving rookie pitchers close calls.(A strike is a strike regardless of who threw it, I can’t stand some of the unwritten rules) Webster ended up walking Guzman to reload the bases and I thought he might not make it through the 3rd, but he got the next guy to ground out to end the inning and regained form for the rest of his outing. Seems relatively uneventful, but for a young pitcher to work through a jam like that gives him some experience for when it happens next time.
Overall, my impression of Webster is that his ceiling his very high. Unintelligent, impatient, non-baseball fans will look at his 7.88 ERA and not even give him the light of day, but it’s not about that, it’s about improvement on a start-to-start basis. He set the bar high with his debut, and came back down to earth a little bit since, but the guys got the stuff and mental fortitude to be a starter in this league and I think that’s all the Red Sox’ wanted to find out during this audition.Will they still go after a Cliff Lee or Matt Garza type of pitcher? I don’t know, but I think they’d be better off staying put as far as starters go, and grabbing a long reliever to help bolster the pen instead.
Let me know your thoughts.