Webster: 'I didn’t have my command'

Webster: 'I didn’t have my command'
May 9, 2013, 1:45 am
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BOSTON – Allen Webster was one of the most surprising young players in spring training, impressing Red Sox staff and opposing scouts.

He was called upon to make his major league debut on April 21 in the second game of a doubleheader, admirably going six innings, giving up three runs (two earned). He was not involved in the decision in that game, as the Sox lost to the Royals.

Webster was, however, decidedly involved in the decision in his most recent spot start, as the Sox were pummeled by the Twins, 15-8, at Fenway Park Wednesday night. Webster took the loss, falling to 0-1. He went 1 2/3 innings, giving up eight runs on six this and three walks with two strikeouts and two home runs. He needed 54 pitches to get through his outing, including 31 in the first inning.

Before the game, manager John Farrell cited Webster’s poise and maturity in his major league debut. While that seemed to be lacking against the Twins, that was not the reason for his struggles.

Webster’s problem? Location.

“I can’t say it was because 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, then he’s obviously at a disadvantage. And against this team, if there isn’t a secondary pitch to command behind in the count, we saw it tonight what they can do.”

“It all comes down to command and locating inside the strike zone,” said pitching coach Juan Nieves. “It always comes down to command and location. Absolutely.”

Webster faced eight batters in the first inning, giving up four runs. After striking out lead-off batter Jamey Carroll on a changeup, Webster allowed the next two batters to reach, with consecutive walks to Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham before a ground-rule double to Justin Morneau for one run. Trevor Plouffe’s sacrifice fly scored Willingham, before Ryan Doumit homered for two more runs. After Oswaldo Arcia singled back to Webster, Aaron Hicks struck out to end the inning.

The Sox offense – led by Jonny Gomes’ towering grand slam – seemed to bail Webster out in the bottom of the inning, scoring five runs to give the right-hander a lead.

But Webster lasted just six more batters, giving up four more runs in the second. He allowed the first three batters to reach base: Pedro Florimon led off with his first home run of the season, a walk to Carroll, and a double by Mauer. After Willingham popped out, Mauer hit a sacrifice fly for one run and Plouffe doubled, ending Webster’s outing.

“I fell behind, didn’t make my pitches — the two walks — and then when I did make my pitches, they made me pay,” Webster said.

“It was my command. I didn’t have my command I had in the first game and they made me pay.

“The team did all they could to help me out. I just went back out there and if I had thrown a zero we’d probably win the game, but I didn’t.”

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia went to the mound several times to talk to Webster.

“I’m just trying to talk to him for the hitters because he doesn’t know a lot of these guys,” Saltalamacchia said. “So there’s a lot of these guys that we want to go in but we want to go in off. We don’t want to, Morneau for instance, we had first base open, we weren’t trying to really give him anything good to hit. So we threw a lot of off-speed stuff, changeup just stayed up and a good hitter was able to get it out there. But stuff like that. He’s going to be fine.

“You got to take some positives out of it obviously. And Allen’s got great stuff. I like the fact that he attacks hitters. He’s not afraid of making contact. Missed some pitches over the middle and they’re a fastball hitting team. They were able to take advantage of it. On another night those might get by them. But he’s still a great pitcher. He still goes out there, goes after hitters, which is what you want.”

He was replaced by left-hander Felix Doubront, who was originally scheduled to start, until injuries forced manager John Farrell to shuffle his pitching staff. But Doubront was not much better. He went 5 1/3 innings, giving up six runs on 12 hits and two walks with four strikeouts. He needed 105 pitches to get through his outing.

“A tough night from the mound tonight,” Farrell said. “A number of pitches found their way to the middle of the plate. Once again, they swung aggressively, they hit a number of fastballs that didn’t get to the intended location. The one thing that’s a little concerning with Felix is that while he’ll get ahead of certain hitters, still lacks the ability to put some guys away and we’ve seen that the last two outings for him.”

No roster move was announced, but Webster was in Farrell’s office with the door shut after the game. After he emerged he began to pack up his locker, likely headed back to Triple-A Pawtucket.

“Rome was not built in one day,” Nieves said of his advice to Webster. “So go back to square one and keep on working on whatever you have to do. Listen, Cy Young Award winners are working on their craft every day. So, it’s nothing different than him. Sometimes they take their bumps and bruises, too. But staying in the course and working on the things he has to work on are very important.

“Absolutely, the command of the fastball, opposite side is very important for him, getting in to lefties, down away to righties, expanding, making the plate bigger because of that, instead of being a one-sided guy. Secondary pitches, continue to work on his secondary pitches, being able to work backwards, elevating fastballs is very important too because he has velocity down… But the stuff is there it’s just a matter of him working on whatever he has to do.”