BOSTON — Allen Webster missed out on a golden opportunity Wednesday. But the 23-year-old’s ugly outing painted a clear picture of why the Red Sox still need to be patient.
Webster is just two starts into his big league career, yet we’ve seemingly seen it all. Webster pitched six solid innings while demonstrating tremendous poise and mound presence during his first start, back on April 21. On Wednesday, he was knocked around like a punching bag as the Twins put up 11 runs through the first two innings en route to a 15-8 victory. Such is the life of a rookie pitcher, and such is why we shouldn’t get too high on the highs or too low on the lows at this point.
If Webster’s second start mirrored his first, there would have been plenty of Red Sox fans clamoring for him to join the club’s rotation on a permanent basis, especially with Felix Doubront going through a rough patch. Instead, Webster laid an egg, surrendering eight earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings before manager John Farrell turned to Boston’s banged-up bullpen.
Now, sending Webster back to Triple-A Pawtucket becomes much easier. Clearly, the righty has some things he needs to work on before he’s officially big league-ready. And while that’s a bit disappointing for those who enjoy seeing a young kid burst onto the scene, it shouldn’t be considered too alarming from the Red Sox’ standpoint.
“Rome was not built in one day, so go back to square one and keep on working at whatever you have to do,” Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves said when asked what advice he plans to give Webster. “Cy Young award-winners are working on their craft every day, so it’s no different than him. … But staying on the course and working on the things he has to work on are very important.”
Farrell spoke glowingly of Webster prior to Wednesday’s start. The Red Sox manager was impressed by Webster’s ability to overcome early struggles in his first outing, insisting that it showed the right-hander was unwilling to back down from a challenge. On Wednesday, Webster failed to settle in, and Farrell thinks it was mostly a lack of execution.
“I think location … I can’t say it’s because of some emotion that took him out of his game,” Farrell said. “Right from the start, just the inability to establish a certain pitch to a given area to get a strike when needed. And when he got behind in the count, he’s obviously at a disadvantage, and against this team, if there is a secondary pitch to command behind the count, we saw tonight what they can do.”
Webster had a chance to salvage his night after the Red Sox responded to the Twins’ four-run first inning with a five-run frame of their own. Unfortunately for Webster, the second inning proved to be even more disastrous, and his night was soon cut short.
Now, it’s back to the drawing board, where command and location seem to be two major points of emphasis.
“Absolutely the command of the fastball opposite side is very important for him. Getting into lefties, down and in to righties, expanding, making the plate bigger because of that, instead of being a one-sided guy,” Nieves said. “Secondary pitches, continue working on his secondary pitches. Being able to pitch backwards, elevating fastballs is very important for him, too, because he has velocity down. … The stuff is there. It’s just a matter of him working on whatever he has to do.”
It’s been obvious that Webster has tremendous stuff. Following Wednesday’s start, it’s also clear that Webster isn’t quite big league-ready. Check back soon, though.