Going into Wednesday night many speculated pitching prospect Allen Webster, making his second major league start, could find himself staying with the big league club for an extended period of time based off of his natural ability as well as current aces Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz doing so at similar ages.
Lester and Buchholz were each 22 when they made their major league debuts and were never sent back down for any extended period of time following their starts. Going along those lines, it wouldn’t have been out of the question to see Webster stay in the rotation, especially considering the struggles of Felix Doubront.
Things drastically changed in 1 2/3 innings Wednesday night when Webster allowed eight runs on six hits, including two home runs, while walking three, looking anything but like a major league pitcher.
“Right from the start 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 he’s obviously at a disadvantage,” said manager John Farrell following the game. “Against this team [Twins], if there isn’t a secondary pitch to command when behind in the count, we saw tonight what they can do.”
Looking back, Lester made 84 minor league starts before sticking in the majors, while Buchholz only needed 62. Webster has started 73 games, but his numbers are not as impressive as Buchholz who in 23 starts before his first big league start in August of 2007 had a 2.44 ERA while striking out 171 batters in 125 1/3 innings that year in AAA.
Meanwhile Lester, who was called up in June of 2006, had a 2.70 ERA in 11 starts with Pawtucket before making Red Sox debut. Webster has the same 2.70 ERA with Pawtucket in four starts this year, but Lester had nine more career minor league starts. Another factor in Webster needing a bit more time in the minors is he just came to the Red Sox organization 10 months ago part of the blockbuster deal with the Dodgers. Lester and Buchholz were both drafted by the Sox and spent five and three years in the minors respectively.
“Go back to square one and keep working at it,” said pitching coach Juan Nieves following the game when Webster was returned to Pawtucket. “Listen, Cy Young Award winners are working on their craft everyday. Its nothing different, sometimes pitchers have bumps and bruises over their course. But staying in the course and working on the things he needs to work on are very important.”
With the outstanding raw stuff Webster has, four pitches including a 96-98 MPH fastball and a nasty changeup, there’s no question he will eventually be a major league pitcher, but his time just isn’t now.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84