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Learning curve: Allen Webster’s in-game adjustments highlight progress

08.15.14 at 6:25 am ET
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Through two innings on Thursday night, Allen Webster‘€™s fourth major league outing of the season looked like it would be another discouraging effort. Though he’€™d allowed just one run, an unearned one at that, he’€™d already tossed 30 pitches with just half of those finding the strike zone.

However, as manager John Farrell noted after the Red Sox‘ 9-4 win, Webster “did bend — but he didn’€™t break.”

Thursday night showed evidence of a pitcher who is growing and learning. Instead of continuing the pattern, Webster was able to adjust in the midst of the game. He threw 15 balls through the first two innings, but just 14 through the next four. He was hurt by a leadoff walk in the fourth, allowing a home run to the next batter, but he managed to get into a rhythm and last six solid innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits while issuing three walks. His line may not signal a particularly impressive outing, but coupled with his last start (in which he lasted into the seventh inning for the first time in his major league career while allowing just two runs), Webster is showing signs of progress.

The Red Sox spent 40 minutes racking up runs in the bottom of the sixth, which ultimately factored into the decision to go to the bullpen despite the fact that Webster had only thrown 85 pitches and had settled into a groove, facing the minimum from the first out of the fourth to the last out of the sixth.

“I thought [Webster] got on a little bit of a roll, and then the long inning, it felt like it was time to get him out of there and stay on a positive note for him,” Farrell said.

Mission accomplished. With three earned runs (and four total) in six innings, Webster recorded his second straight quality start and win and earned his third victory of the season in four big league outings. Catcher Dan Butler suggested that the consecutive victories might serve as a confidence boost to Webster, who has seen his ups and downs at the major league level.

“€œHe’€™s just worried about just trying to get us into a game where we’€™re winning and we’€™re still in the game when he gets out of it,”€ Butler said. “€œ[Getting a couple wins in a row] definitely helps his confidence and boosts that confidence going forward knowing he has that ability.”€

But it was Webster’€™s ability to make in-game adjustments on Thursday night — specifically, his ability to rein in his mechanics after he missed the strike zone with eight straight pitches early in the second inning — that really stood out.

“I think we’€™re seeing some small gains here,” Farrell said. “When you compare to two starts ago where things might have gotten away from him a bit, I think more than anything, he’€™ll wake up tomorrow knowing there’€™s another win next to his name, and hopefully that’€™s added confidence along the way.”

Working with a familiar catcher may have helped Webster on Thursday night as well. When his command began to elude him, a mound visit from backstop Christian Vazquez helped get the pitcher back on the right track.

“I had a few innings that, when lefties came up, I was kind of pushing the ball again, not staying true to my mechanics, and then once Vazquez came out to talk to me, I kind of got back in it and we locked it back in together,” Webster said. Vazquez noted that Webster had to “stay back and stay closed with his shoulder.”

But the ability to make these adjustments is a result of gaining experience and insight for Webster.

“€œEvery outing I learn something new,” the righty said. “Going out there now, just watching video, finding the key points when I do miss it and being able to recognize those as soon as possible.”€

“He’€™s gotten better every time,” Butler said. “€œHe’€™s going to miss, the sinker’€™s going to run off on him and then he’€™s able to find it and make an adjustment to where he can back a movement back onto the plate or just off so, his fastball command is his biggest issue so for him to do what he did tonight is good.”€

With the Red Sox far out of any playoff race, the remainder of the season is the perfect time for younger players to gain experience and learn from the mistakes they make along the way. Thursday night’€™s outing for Webster was a prime example of why gaining that experience is important.

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