PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Allen Webster continues to tease.
The arm is lively, the stuff nasty – using official baseball terminology – and his potential outstanding.
But when are the results going to come?
Almost there, say the Boston Red Sox.
“I think he’s going to be really special here, soon,” Boston catcher David Ross said. “He’s figuring some things out.”
Ross caught Webster Sunday, a four-inning effort against the Tampa Bay Rays. He gave up three hits, three walks and three runs (two earned). Not impressive numbers, but everyone from Ross to Manager John Farrell to Webster himself expressed satisfaction.
“A big improvement that I needed,” Webster said. “Feel real confident coming out of it.”
The three walks in four innings?
“Didn’t make my pitches when I needed to,” he said. “Just misfired some of them.”
To be fair, Webster did pitch well most of his outing, and there were few hard-hit balls. Some balls dropped in that maybe the defense could have handled. A double-play grounder was misplayed.
The company line: You have to look at the little steps.
“I thought today Allen Webster continues to grow as a pitcher,” Farrell said.
Among the positives was a full-count change-up that froze Evan Longoria for strike three, one of three strikeouts for Webster. Webster also got Longoria to hit a grounder that should have been an inning-ending double play.
Those two encounters against the dangerous Longoria showcase Webster’s talents – a good change-up and a sinking fastball that induces ground balls.
“I thought he threw the ball really well, probably the best I’ve seen him,” Ross said. “He doesn’t have his command yet. But we also didn’t play good defense behind him.”
When the Red Sox first obtained Webster in the 2012 mega-deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was assigned to Portland.
A scout familiar with Webster marveled at his promise.
“But he lacks command,” the scout added.
Webster was mainly an infielder in high school when the Dodgers drafted him in 2008. They saw what he could do on the mound and made him a pitcher. In his brief rookie season that year, Webster struck out 13 and walked 17 in 18 innings.
He’s gotten better.
Webster made only two starts for Portland at the end of 2012. Boston showed its faith in him in 2013, promoting him to the majors for an April start against the Royals. He allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings and got a non-decision in a 5-4 loss.
Webster would go on to make a total of eight major league appearances (seven starts). But his lack of command pushed his pitch count up. He lasted an average of four innings in his starts.
The inability to maintain command may eventually push Webster to the bullpen. But for now, the Red Sox are thinking starter. At the urging of pitching coach Juan Nieves, three Boston veterans, John Lackey, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, sat down with Webster this spring and talked about his mechanics. They convinced him to stay back and pitch over the top. When Webster leans forward or comes more from the side, he’s wild.
The conversation seemed to have an effect. Webster went out and shut out the Marlins on one hit and one walk in two innings.
His control, for the most part, was there again on Sunday. Webster said “early on I was throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters.
“If I continue to do that, I’ll like where I’m at.”
Where Webster will likely be at the start of the year is in Pawtucket. He might be the first one called up if a starter is needed (depending on what role Brandon Workman has, or how Anthony Ranaudo is doing).
Ross will welcome when Webster is called.
“He has a two-seam (fastball) that is really, really sinking well, and he’s learning to pitch with it,” Ross said.
“He’s a totally different pitcher (from last year). He’s really maturing, moving in the right direction.”
The pitcher with potential is almost there.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: