BOSTON - Allen Webster has conquered his control issues at the Triple A level, reducing his walks-per-nine innings to 3.2 this season.
But that improved command has yet to translate to the big leagues.
After issuing five walks in 5 1/3 innings last Sunday at Tropicana Field, Webster actually regressed Saturday, allowing six walks in just 2 2/3 innings.
His five walks in the third innings resulted in four runs being scored and led the way to a 6-4 victory by the New York Yankees.
The Red Sox had provided him with a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second, but Webster started to unravel in the top of the next inning, walking the first three hitters he faced. All three of those hitters came around to score.
"It was clear that he lost command of the strike zone,'' said John Farrell, "and while there's plenty of stuff in terms of fastball action and swing-and-miss to his changeup, the ability to make an adjustment from either pitch-to-pitch or hitter-to-hitter was elusive.''
Webster's meltdown seemed to be a combination of mechanical issues and not trusting his stuff enough to throw it over the plate to major league hitters.
"It was tough,'' acknowledged Webster of the three straight walks to begin the third. "I should went back at it and been more aggressive and stayed at it.''
"As the inning wore on,'' said Farrell, "there was a tendency to begin to rush a little bit more and miss up to his arm side with a little bit more frequency. (We didn't see) the ability to slow the inning down and make the needed adjustment. Obviously, the six walks allowed come back to haunt.''
What's increasingly clear is that the ability to control the strike zone in the International League is a lot different than doing it at the major league level.
"There's a drastic difference between here and Triple A,'' said Farrell. "Whether it's the consistency of the strike zone, the quality of the hitter, the stage on which you're performing -- all those things factor into this.''
"I thought I had good control of the game in the first two innings,'' said Webster, "then I really struggled with my release point in the third and never got back to finding it. If I could have found my release point with my fastball, I could have got my other pitches working.''
In two starts, Webster has walked 11 in just eight innings. The Red Sox will use the final two months of this season to evaluate their young pitchers, but they can't keep sending Webster out to the mound for regular turns if he doesn't throw strikes.
"I'll just try to put this one behind me,'' said Webster, "and get back after it tomorrow and start working on my throwing program. I just didn't stay behind the ball and stay with my mechanics.''
"It seemed like there were no adjustments during the course of the game,'' said pitching coach Juan Nieves. "Things unraveled a little bit on him. There's always a challenge for him on becoming more consistent in the strike zone and that's the ultimate plan.''