Pawtucket Red Sox pitcher Allen Webster is 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his last four starts. In Monday night‚Äôs contest against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, he didn‚Äôt factor in the decision, but he tossed a season-high eight innings and allowed just two hits and a run. PHOTO BY JILLIAN SOUZA
PAWTUCKET ‚ÄĒ From Gary DiSarcina‚Äôs perch in the PawSox dugout, the manager is able to hone in and get a proper read on the placid look on Allen Webster‚Äôs face, one that until recently had singularly defined the right-hander‚Äôs facial expression on the mound.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs got a demeanor that‚Äôs really laid back, which is useful at times,‚ÄĚ noted DiSarcina.
In preparation for a recent start that came on the heels of a nirvana moment for Webster, Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur went up to DiSarcina and told him that something was different about this particular pre-game warm-up session in the bullpen. It was as if Webster had adopted an alter ego, trading in his reserved and sometimes shy disposition for someone with a little extra gusto.
‚ÄúRich would come down from the bullpen and say, ‚ÄėI don‚Äôt know what it is, but he looks different tonight,‚Äô‚ÄĚ shared DiSarcina. ‚ÄúTo me, he‚Äôs looked more determined.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs more of a fire,‚ÄĚ Sauveur feels. ‚ÄúI know I saw something.‚ÄĚ
While pinpointing the exact origin of where this new-looked Webster came from is open to interpretation ‚Äď rest assured that he‚Äôs not some fire-breathing dragon in the hours leading up to his scheduled start, rather a headphone-wearing 23-year-old who obviously prefers to listen to his own select brand of music rather than the sounds emanating from the clubhouse sound system ‚Äď it‚Äôs easy to look at the roll he‚Äôs enjoyed lately and declare that this particular change has been for the better.
It‚Äôs also easy to pinpoint a time in the season when Webster found himself standing at a crossroads. The North Carolina native endured an unforgettable return to his home state on July 21, recording as many outs (four) as walks (five) while allowing seven runs to a Durham team that was clearly in a feasting mood.
‚ÄúI know he takes it hard when he‚Äôs not doing well,‚ÄĚ DiSarcina pointed out.
In the seven outings that have followed the Durham debacle, Webster has made noticeable strides in re-establishing the perception that people in the Red Sox organization had of him coming out of spring training. The eight innings of one-run ball he spun Monday night against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre ‚Äď a performance that came one day following the one-year anniversary of the colossal trade between the Red Sox and Dodgers that included Webster as part of the package of prospects Boston received ‚Äď was nothing short of brilliant and breathtaking in the eyes of DiSarcina and Sauveur.
‚ÄúWhen you throw like that, you‚Äôre going to get a lot of guys out,‚ÄĚ said DiSarcina. ‚ÄúOutstanding for Webster.‚ÄĚ
Added Sauveur, ‚ÄúI thought he threw exceptionally well.‚ÄĚ
The overseer of Pawtucket‚Äôs pitching staff noted that Webster had a similar sterling look in his eyes when he permitted three runs in 5.2 innings last Wednesday at Scranton, an outing that foreshadowed what the McCoy Stadium Faithful got to witness firsthand on Monday night.
‚ÄúThe last time he threw into the sixth inning, but it looked like there was a fire lit under him. There was something there,‚ÄĚ Sauveur expressed. ‚ÄúHe threw okay (last Wednesday at PNC Field), but that was the same guy who threw a gem (Monday).‚ÄĚ
Webster is enjoying a seven-start stretch where he‚Äôs 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA (12 earned runs in 41 innings pitched) and has allowed three or fewer runs in each of those seven starts. His season ERA for the PawSox stands at 3.68 ‚Äď down drastically from the 4.40 figure that was listed next to his name following that unforgettable July evening at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
‚ÄúI do feel that he‚Äôs getting more confident,‚ÄĚ said Sauveur.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know if he has a sense of urgency or has that September call-up in mind, but to me, it looks like determination,‚ÄĚ DiSarcina said. ‚ÄúSince that Durham start, he‚Äôs been progressively getting better, and I don‚Äôt think you can get much better (than Webster‚Äôs near-pristine outing on Monday night).‚ÄĚ
Webster didn‚Äôt shy away when asked about the aura of confidence he now routinely portrays.
‚ÄúI feel like I‚Äôm in a good rhythm and that has allowed me to have a good tempo and pitch deeper into games,‚ÄĚ feels Webster, who depending on how Clay Buchholz fares during the course of his rehab assignment could end up assuming an even more prominent September role with the Red Sox. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs what I‚Äôve been trying to do the whole year.‚ÄĚ
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
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