PawSox rotation will keep batters guessing

PawSox rotation will keep batters guessing
April 2, 2013, 6:45 pm
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PAWTUCKET, R.I. – When the PawSox open their season Thursday in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, knuckleballer Steven Wright will be on the mound. He will be followed in the rotation by right-hander Allen Webster, lefty Chris Hernandez, and righties Terry Doyle and Rubby De La Rosa.
“It’s an honor,” said Wright. “Because we’ve got four other guys in the rotation – Webster, Hernandez, Doyle, De La  Rosa, and Graham Godfrey -- all of them could be easily taking that day. So for them to give it to me, I feel pretty privileged to be able to do it.”
Webster, 28, who was acquired by the Red Sox at the trading deadline last season for Lars Anderson, made four starts for the PawSox last season, posting a record of 0-1 with a 3.15 ERA. In 20 innings, he recorded 16 strikeouts and five walks, averaging 7.20 strikeouts per nine innings, and 3.20 strikeouts to walks, with a 1.200 WHIP.
“I think he pitched really well for us when he was here last year,” said PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur, who also threw a knuckleball in his career. “I think we’ve got five guys that probably could have done it. I think it just worked out that he was the number one guy. We have five very good starters. I’m very proud of all of them. I think they all have a chance to do something very good in their career.”
Manager Gary DiSarcina likes the different looks his starters can give. DiSarcina and his staff –Sauveur and hitting coach Dave Joppie – spent most of the spring working with the major league staff. So, he’s still getting to know what his players can offer. But, going from the knuckleballer, who throws his pitch in the mid-70s with a mid/high 80s fastball, to the hard-throwing Webster to De La Rosa who can hit triple digits with his fastball, but is still on an innings limit as he makes his way back from Tommy John surgery in August 2011, with a lefty in the middle, should be an interesting challenge for opposing batters.
“We start with the knuckleballer then we have Allen Webster, who throws a 97-mph fastball and an 88-mph change,” DiSarcina said. “Rubby’s got just tremendous stuff. It’s just a matter of him building up and going multiple, multiple, innings. Christian Hernandez and Terry Doyle, and I haven’t even seen them pitch yet because they got sent down so late. But the other three guys, they’re very different. And it’s exciting, because I faced guys – I went from [Tim] Wakefield to Pedro [Martinez] to [Roger] Clemens and all these different guys, when you have a different look every night, it’s tough as a hitter. So I’m looking forward to seeing them go out there every night and do their thing.”
Who will be catching for Wright remains to be seen. He will not have a personal catcher, with either Ryan Lavarnway or Daniel Butler behind the plate.
“It’ll just be whoever falls on that day will have to go out there and just take some in the face,” DiSarcina quipped. “Ryan’s caught knuckleballs twice in his life. He had a rough outing his last day, Steven’s last start.  It’s tough to hit them. It’s tough to call strikes. It’s tough to catch them. The only thing that’s easy is when you get on base, you run. They’re usually slow to the plate and it’s tough to catch. So whether it’s Ryan or Dan, try to have fun with it. It’s tough duty to catch a knuckleballer.”
Perhaps the only player in the Red Sox organization to open as many eyes other than Jackie Bradley, Jr., was Webster. At one point during the spring, a scout offered -- without a question even being asked – that Webster was the best pitcher at any level or any age he had seen in the spring.
For the 23-year-old Webster, though, the spring was a learning experience. He was acquired from the Dodgers as part of the blockbuster trade in August. This was his second spring in a big league camp.
“It was good. It was fun. I learned a lot,” he said. “Just watching all the big leaguers, watching them, seeing how they carried themselves and worked hard, and just try to do what they did. I was excited to be there [big league camp].
“Just going out there, trying to repeat my delivery, staying in control, making my pitch, not really worrying about who’s at the plate, just make my pitch and get an out.”
It would not be a surprise if Webster is called on at some point in the season to help the major league team.
“He’s got a very strong arm,” said Sauveur. “He’s a good student of the game, I think. I watched him in spring training, and he likes to listen, he wants to get better, and his ultimate goal is obviously to pitch in the major leagues and do well, have a nice career. I think it’s going to happen.”
But, there are, of course, things he still needs to work on.
“A little bit of everything,” Sauveur said. “Fastball command's been very good, and you can always improve on that. But he’s got three very good pitches, three plus pitches. He’s young. I think everybody has something to work on, whether it’s fielding around the mound, fastball command, or whatever. It all just comes down to, if he works hard on every part of his game, that kid’s going to have a nice career.”
For Webster, his goals for the season are simple.
“Well, obviously to make it to the big leagues,” he said. “But start off strong, get the ball going in the right direction.”