"First impression, he made a good one," Portland Sea Dogs manager Kevin Boles said after Tuesday night's game. "He's got stuff. That stuff is coming out of his hand pretty good."
Red Sox nation took a particularly keen interest Tuesday night in how one of the newest pitchers in town would do in his Sea Dogs debut against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in Manchester, N.H., deep in the heart of Sox country.
Brought in from the trade for Boston behemoths Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, fans hope Webster would bring something significant to the table.
Boles liked a lot of what he saw. Despite giving up three earned runs in his first two innings, Webster struck out seven Fisher Cats and cooled down for a scoreless third and fourth inning. With some nervous missed pitches and overheated, flat fastballs came a few moments of brilliance.
"I do like the arm," Boles said. "It's a quality arm, it looks like he's got some sink to the fastball. It looks like he's got some pretty good feel for the changeup. That was a nice surprise."
Early on, Webster's fastball was flying pretty hard and flat for a sinker pitcher like himself. Against hopeful future Blue Jay star Jake Marisnick, he attacked with five straight fastballs, all hanging around the 94 mph range and topping out at 95, before catching Marisnick looking with a solid breaking ball.
Marisnick, who has had trouble adjusting to Double-A pitching, was easily fooled. Ryan Goins was not. The Fisher Cats shortstop smacked the first fastball he saw for a base hit into the outfield. Seeing that his heater was off, Webster quickly adjusted and began going with mostly offspeed pitches for the remainder of the inning.
It wasn't entirely successful, considering the three runs he allowed before the end of the second inning. However, Webster's scoreless third and fourth innings demonstrated his ability to bounce back and keep his composure.
"He just kept competing," Boles said. "He kept his mound presence, even though I'm sure it wasn't his best stuff, but he just kept competing, and that's a good sign because we're looking at how guys handle adversity, and he definitely did that... its very impressive."
Webster got himself into some hitter's counts, often winding up with a 3-0 or 3-1 count. He admitted that he was being a little too fine around the corners.
"That was just me trying to be too fine," Webster said. "Just missing out of the zone, not attacking like I should have been."
"I think he was [pitching a little too fine]," Boles agreed. "But, again, it's a credit to him, things have happened very quick. you know, I mean change clubs, change organizations."
4,652 fans were in attendance Tuesday night to see one of the newest Red Sox hopefuls. Only an hour north of Boston, Webster had plenty of support in Manchester despite being dressed in his road greys.
"Felt good. Great to have people in the stands yelling for me in an away game," Webster said.
Naturally, Boles insisted that he couldn't say too much having only known Webster for a few days, but the first impression was a good one.
"Again," Boles said. "If you look at him, it's a nice frame, he's athletic, he was a former shortstop, obviously he's got a pretty good delivery to him, and, again, the ball comes out pretty good."