While announcing that Junichi Tazawa would serve as the team’s interim closer, manager John Farrell said left-hander Felix Doubront was being shifted to the bullpen and rookie Allen Webster had been recalled and was taking Doubront’s turn in the rotation Wednesday night.
This is the second time Webster has been summoned from Triple-A Pawtucket. The first time was April 21, when he served as an emergency starter in a day-night doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals, gave the Sox a strong six innings and was returned to Pawtucket after the game.
This time, there is a possibility that Webster could be here for a while, depending on how long the bullpen remains depleted and how well Webster pitches. The 23-year-old right-hander is coming off an outstanding start in Pawtucket, where he pitched six scoreless innings Friday night, allowing just two hits while striking out nine with five 1-2-3 innings.
On the same night in Texas, Doubront was rocked for 12 hits and six runs in just 3 2/3 innings and raised some concerns with his diminished velocity. Even in his previous three starts, all wins, Doubront struggled with his control, walking 13 batters in 18 1/3 innings.
Webster has continued to pitch as well as he did in spring training, where one major league talent evaluator declared he had the best stuff of any pitcher in Sox camp. He has 26 strikeouts in 20 innings and complements his four-seam fastball that registers in the high 90s with a plus changeup and a heavy sinker that is considered his best pitch.
With Webster, it is not a matter of if he’ll crack the Sox rotation but when. How he pitches against the Twins on Wednesday night could serve as an audition for an extended stay.
Farrell couched the decision to put Doubront in the pen as a means to "regroup and get our pitching back on track," but the Sox could have just as easily used Webster in relief or called up another pitcher like Alfredo Aceves, who would have been on regular rest Tuesday night. That would seem to lend additional credence to the possibility Webster could be around for a while.
Webster said he received the news of his call-up at around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday in his hotel room in Georgia, where the PawSox were playing a series against Gwinnett. He said he was asleep at the time. Given the hour, did he think someone might have been fooling around with him?
"No," he said, “nobody plays about something like that."
Webster, so low-key he makes Clay Buchholz look hyper by comparison, was asked how different he expects it to feel on his second big-league go-round.
“I don’t know how to answer that," he said. “I’ll tell you in a week, if I’m still here in a week."
Farrell was not as reserved in his expectations.
"I think everyone looks forward to seeing that guy on the mound," Farrell said. "He’s got very good stuff. He showed he’s got great poise in his first start, and we’ll see him again [Wednesday] night."