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March 28, 2013 at 12:16 PM

Webster shows major league potential in minor league outing

An invitation to major league camp provides different experiences for different young players. For right-hander Allen Webster, the experience taught him how important it was to be consistent every time you’re handed the ball.

Webster’s Pawtucket teammate, catcher Dan Butler, got the chance to catch seasoned major-league arms. And for Butler, there’s not much separating the pitchers who will break camp with Boston from Webster, the recently-acquired crown jewel of the Red Sox’ cache of upper-level pitching prospects.

“Stuff-wise, he’s right there,” Butler said. “He’s got just as good stuff as anybody out there. I think it’s just (a matter of) when the organization wants him, I don't think it has anything to do with stuff-wise or consistency. He’s been consistent all spring training. It just might be the timing issue.”

As Webster, who was sent down to minor league camp on March 15, readjusts to what could be his last year in minor-league ball, he continued to show the same repertoire that impressed in big-league camp on Saturday in a Triple-A game against the Minnesota Twins.

Webster worked a 1-2-3 first inning, and reached back to throw a handful of 96 mph fastballs while mixing in his changeup and slider. In the second inning, Webster ran into mechanical problems and allowed a leadoff home run to Twins outfield prospect Oswaldo Arcia. From there, Webster struggled to repeat his delivery, seemingly alternating between stretches of staying too upright through his delivery and leaving the ball up in the strike zone, and sequences where he’d rush his motion and leave everything in the dirt. He threw 31 pitches in the frame and did not retire a batter, though the relaxed spring training rules allowed the coaches to end the inning.

“The second inning, I was rushing a little bit,” Webster said. “Once I slowed everything down, I was able to make pitches.”

But with a clean slate in the third inning, Webster found his delivery and effectively mixed his pitches. From that point until Webster departed in the fifth inning, he showcased his secondary pitches. Webster throws both a hard slider at 84-86 mph, and a slurvy mid-70s breaking ball that has been in and out of his repertoire throughout his minor-league career.

His most effective pitch, however, is a mid-80s changeup that drops off the table and fades heavily to his arm side. The pitch, which currently grades as plus, has the potential to be what Portland manager Kevin Boles called “a terrific weapon.”

“I didn’t realize how good that changeup really is (last season),” Boles said. “Same arm speed (as the fastball), it’s a pitch that he can rely on. It looks like he can throw it any time in the count. With that fastball life, and that change in velocity, it’s pretty impressive.”

By using the changeup and his plus slider in all counts, Butler said Webster’s fastball plays up.

“He’s got good secondary stuff, and that allows his fastball to play a lot higher, makes it look a lot faster, makes it sink a lot harder and it helps his fastball stay in the zone,” Butler said.

Webster, the No. 4-ranked player on SoxProspects.com and the second-best pitching prospect behind Matt Barnes, was acquired in the August 2012 mega-deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Webster boasted a 3.55 ERA and just under a strikeout per inning with Double-A Chattanooga before the deal, and made two starts with Portland after the trade.

“Last year was just such a limited look and transition to being in a new organization, but this year in major league camp he looks comfortable,” Boles said. “He looked like he fit right in and belonged, and obviously, the stuff, the repeatability of his delivery, and the way he attacks the strike zone is really impressive.”

Photo Credit: Allen Webster by Kelly O'Connor.

Jon Meoli is a Senior Columnist at SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMeoli