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April 4, 2014 at 2:06 PM

PawSox Notebook: Webster labors in Opener against selective hitters

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Allen Webster (pictured) entered his Opening Night start for the PawSox at McCoy Stadium hoping to prove he had moved on from the troubles that plagued him in 2013, when he displayed his excellent raw stuff, but dealt with control issues that completely washed out some of his starts. However, it was not to be, as he walked two over 3 2/3 innings and threw 35 of his 81 pitches for balls.

“I've had better days, but I'm glad to get that first one out of the way,” Webster said after the game. “Wish I could have got the team off to a win, but just started a little slow.”

There were certainly silver linings, however. Though he allowed seven hits, one was of the broken-bat variety, and a couple others were not well-hit. He limited the Lehigh Valley IronPigs to three runs in an outing that manager Kevin Boles described as a battle.

“They worked counts and they were selective,” Boles said. “And when they got a pitch that was a little be elevated, [they jumped on it]. I thought [Webster] had a little bit of sink to his fastball, but they were still able to get there. There were a couple pitches that looked like they should have been able to tie up some hitters, but they shortened up their swings and they had the barrel through to their pull side on those right-handed hitters. Again, you got to give credit to their offense: they worked the count.”

The velocity was there for Webster, who sat around 93-96 mph with his fastball early on, touching 97, while also mixing in the slider and changeup with some inconsistent success. His velocity diminished slightly in his last two frames, but Webster was not blaming fatigue afterwards.

“It was coming out really good, it felt good,” Webster said of his fastball. “I just didn't really locate and get ahead of batters like I wanted to.

“I did the best I could with what I brought out there tonight.”

Hinojosa makes stateside debut
When the Red Sox signed Cuban pitcher Dalier Hinojosa in the offseason to a $4-million signing bonus, few knew what to expect. Now working as a reliever in Pawtucket, his first professional appearance in America was a success.

The 28-year-old right-hander went 1 2/3 innings, and though he allowed a run in his first inning of work, he calmed down in the second and was much more effective.

“I thought he was a little bit rusty in the first inning. He made some adjustments,” Boles said. “He attacked the zone a little bit more that second inning. It was a good finish for him. It just seemed like he was rushing towards the plate a little bit in the first, and he seemed to settle in in the second.”

Hinojosa featured a fastball that sat 88-90 mph in the outing and hit 91 a few times, as well as a breaking ball and changeup. The breaking ball was somewhere between a curveball and a slider.

“It’s a little bit of a hybrid,” Boles said of the pitch. “It’s a little bit in between. So sometimes it’s a little bit later, and other times he rushed out to the plate and his arm just wasn’t catching up. He showed a couple with some real good finish to it, but it was a little bit in between tonight.”

For his first outing stateside, Hinojosa showed why he may have major league potential. He will need to continue to make adjustments as hitters begin to build a book on him, but he showed the ability to do just that on Thursday.

“The way he adjusted in that second inning was pretty impressive,” Boles said. “I thought he was able to stay back in his delivery a little bit better, calm himself down a little bit, and he attacked the zone a little bit better in that second inning.”

Lavarnway makes debut at first
In his minor league career, Ryan Lavarnway (pictured) has played 314 games at catcher, 189 games at designated hitter, and now after Thursday night, one game at first base.

“He’s done well, from day one to where we saw him taking ground balls to where we see him now,” Boles said. “He kept the ball in front of him on the [putout to the pitcher in the fourth inning]. I thought he did a nice job. He had some pretty good footwork around the bag, and this is a work in progress, but the improvements that he’s made from day one in spring training have been terrific.”

To Boles’ point, the most difficult attempt Lavarnway had was a play where a grounder was hit hard right at him. He kept the ball in front of him, much like a catcher smothering a pitch in the dirt, although the ball did get a little further away from him than he would have probably liked. Still, he was able to make a fast enough recovery in order to quickly flip it to Webster covering in time to get the out.

With Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler likely handling the bulk of the catching duties for now,  Lavarnway should get plenty of game reps at first in the near future. If he can return to his past dominance at the plate and continue to progress defensively, the versatility could serve him well in his quest to find a permanent home on a major league roster.

Photo credit: Allen Webster and Ryan Lavarnway by Kelly O'Connor of sittingstill.smugmug.com

Matt Huegel is Managing Editor for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattHuegelSP.