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Allen Webster poised beyond his years in first big-league start

04.22.13 at 12:09 am ET
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Right-hander Allen Webster allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings in his big league debut. (AP)

It was a tantalizing hint of what is to come.

Though the Red Sox suffered a 5-4, 10-inning defeat at the hands of the Royals in the second game of a day-night doubleheader, the contest featured an impressive unveiling of a prospect who offered initial validation to the hype that accompanied him this spring. In the first start of his career, which resulted in a no-decision, 23-year-old Allen Webster showed a veteran’s poise and stuff.

In a game where he leaned heavily on veteran batterymate David Ross, Webster allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits over six innings. That end line, however, only explains part of why the rookie’s debut was noteworthy.

The Royals didn’t exactly give Webster a warm welcome to the big leagues. Alex Gordon swung at his first pitch, a 95-mph fastball, and drove it off the Green Monster for a double. Gordon then scored on a Pedro Ciriaco throwing error, but after falling behind, 1-0, two batters into the game, Webster ended the inning quickly after that with two strikeouts and a groundout. After that, he said, he was locked in.

“I felt comfortable from — well, not the first pitch, but once I got through the first inning, things started going smooth for me,” Webster said.

Webster used a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a changeup and a curveball on Sunday and got impressive results — including swings and misses — with all four, totaling 13 swings and misses en route to five strikeouts. The right-hander was aggressive in the strike zone, walking just one hitter and throwing 57 of 84 (68 percent) of his pitches for strikes. Moreover, Ross noted his willingness to throw his off-speed pitches in situations where young pitchers don’t often do so.

“He did everything I asked him to do,” Ross said. “It was really nice getting 0-0 curveballs in there, which is a sign of a veteran pitcher. Throwing his changeup when maybe they’re looking for it and throwing it out of the zone, high heaters — he cut one ball off the plate to a righty, a fastball off the plate, which was smart of him.”

Webster’s fastball, which clocked in as high as 98 mph on Sunday, is the most visibly major-league-ready part of his game. But he also stayed composed, never letting an inning get out of hand. Even when he gave up two home runs in three at-bats in the fifth, he got a groundout to end the inning in the next at-bat.

“I talked to him on my way in, and I told him, my first at-bat, I couldn’t feel my legs,” Ross said. “He was a little amped up, but the first run he gave up was kind of cheap — you’re not expecting that first guy to be swinging, and then in a doubleheader, you know those guys are locked in a little more in the second game. … I think he did a good job.”

On the fifth-inning homer Webster gave up to George Kottaras, he left his fastball out over the plate. (When asked what he learned about big-league hitters, Webster responded, “If you miss your spots, you’re going to pay for it.”) On the solo shot he allowed to Gordon, though, his fastball was low and away, if not quite as low as he may have wanted it.

Ross said he felt partly responsible for the second home run, saying he was reluctant to ask Webster to throw inside to the left-handed hitting Gordon because he wasn’t sure Webster was comfortable with it.

“I thought he made a real good pitch on Gordon,” Ross said. “I maybe should have [called] a changeup there again, so I’m probably a little bit to blame for that one. … You don’t ever want to catch a guy into trouble and ask him to do something that’s tough to do.”

Without any prior experience with the Royals’ hitters, Webster said he trusted Ross to guide him through the game.

“I was with him the whole time,” Webster said. “He called a great game. Whatever he threw down, I basically had in my hand already.”

Webster will now return to Triple-A Pawtucket, as he was added to the roster under the provision that allows a team to bring in a 26th player for a doubleheader. There may not be room for him in the rotation now, but Ross is confident that he’ll be back before long.

“That kid’s got a real bright future ahead of him,” he said.

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