PAWTUCKET — From Gary DiSarcina’s perch in the PawSox dugout, the manager is able to hone in and get a proper read on the placid look on Allen Webster’s face, one that until recently had singularly defined the right-hander’s facial expression on the mound.
“He’s got a demeanor that’s really laid back, which is useful at times,” 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.
“Rich would come down from the bullpen and say, ‘I don’t know what it is, but he looks different tonight,’” shared DiSarcina. “To me, he’s looked more determined.”
“It’s more of a fire,” Sauveur feels. “I know I saw something.”
While pinpointing the exact origin of where this new-looked Webster came from is open to interpretation – rest assured that he’s 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 – it’s easy to look at the roll he’s enjoyed lately and declare that this particular change has been for the better.
It’s 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.
“I know he takes it hard when he’s not doing well,” 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 – 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 – was nothing short of brilliant and breathtaking in the eyes of DiSarcina and Sauveur.
“When you throw like that, you’re going to get a lot of guys out,” said DiSarcina. “Outstanding for Webster.”
Added Sauveur, “I thought he threw exceptionally well.”
The overseer of Pawtucket’s 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.
“The last time he threw into the sixth inning, but it looked like there was a fire lit under him. There was something there,” Sauveur expressed. “He threw okay (last Wednesday at PNC Field), but that was the same guy who threw a gem (Monday).”
Webster is enjoying a seven-start stretch where he’s 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 – down drastically from the 4.40 figure that was listed next to his name following that unforgettable July evening at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
“I do feel that he’s getting more confident,” said Sauveur.
“I don’t know if he has a sense of urgency or has that September call-up in mind, but to me, it looks like determination,” DiSarcina said. “Since that Durham start, he’s been progressively getting better, and I don’t think you can get much better (than Webster’s near-pristine outing on Monday night).”
Webster didn’t shy away when asked about the aura of confidence he now routinely portrays.
“I feel like I’m in a good rhythm and that has allowed me to have a good tempo and pitch deeper into games,” 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. “It’s what I’ve been trying to do the whole year.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03