Allen Webster might taste the majors again in 2013.
Webster made six starts with the Red Sox this season and struggled for the most part. His last big league outing came on July 9, and he surrendered seven earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings. The 23-year-old has since continued his campaign at Triple-A, seemingly with an eye on cracking the Red Sox’ rotation in 2014, but an interesting development in Pawtucket’s 7-1 loss to Rochester on Wednesday could propel Webster back to the majors sooner than expected.
Webster pitched out of the bullpen for the PawSox on Wednesday, marking the first time that he’s pitched in relief all season. The hard-throwing right-hander made 21 starts at Triple-A, in addition to his six major league starts, and he hadn’t pitched out of the bullpen since making five relief appearances for Double-A Chattanooga of the Dodgers organization in 2012. Webster’s long-term future still involves starting, but the Red Sox clearly have an open mind when it comes to the rest of this season. And why not?
Koji Uehara has anchored the ninth inning for Boston, but John Farrell has frequently shuffled around his setup options based on matchups and other variables. If Webster can show promise in a bullpen role, it’s not unreasonable to think that the Red Sox could use him in such capacity down the stretch. After all, we’ve already seen Brandon Workman and Drake Britton make successful jumps from minor league starters to major league relievers this season.
Webster has a few factors working in his favor regarding a potential call-up, the biggest of which is his presence on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster. In other words, bringing him aboard as part of the team’s September call-ups wouldn’t require any additional roster shuffling.
There’s also the fact that Webster is a right-handed ground-ball pitcher — something that the Red Sox’ bullpen currently lacks. Boston’s bullpen, as of Thursday, consists of four left-handers and three right-handers in front of Uehara, which is a very unique dynamic. Additionally, many of the team’s setup options, including Junichi Tazawa, are fly-ball pitchers. Webster averaged 1.38 groundouts to airouts in his 21 Triple-A starts this season, and he was particularly tough on right-handed hitters. His style — assuming he can prove to be effective out of the ‘pen — could be a nice addition in terms of rounding out the unit for the remainder of the season.
Webster threw a scoreless inning in relief Wednesday, with two outs coming on groundouts and the other coming via a strikeout. Even though the righty’s relief history is limited, it might not be long before he’s running in from the Red Sox’ bullpen if all goes according to (the new) plan.
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