BOSTON -- When Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington pulled the trigger on a nine-player deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 25, 2012, he knew the transaction would pay dividends in a variety of ways.
First, he moved a lot of salary obligations (more than $260 million) when he sent pitcher Josh Beckett, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and outfielder Carl Crawford (along with utility infielder Nick Punto) to the Dodgers in exchange for first baseman James Loney, infielder Ivan De Jesus and a strong package of three prospects in pitchers Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa and first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands.
Based on the prospects alone, the Red Sox made out in the deal, and one of them was on display Sunday night when the 23-year-old Webster made his major league debut in a spot start for Boston.
The right-hander worked six innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits with one walk and five strikeouts. He threw 84 pitches (57 strikes) and got a no-decision in the Red Sox's 5-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals in 10 innings.
"I thought he showed great poise, good mound presence and very good stuff, similar to what we saw in spring training," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "With the exception of a couple of fastballs that might have been a little bit elevated in the strike zone, I thought he did everything we could have hoped in a spot start for us."
Webster pitched well during spring training and began the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he made two starts and allowed only one run in 10 innings of work (0.90 ERA) while striking out 12.
Per MLB rules, teams are allowed to add a 26th man to the roster for doubleheaders, so Webster was sent back to Pawtucket after the game, and the move does not count against the Sox's options on him.
"Coming into today, he knew it was a one-day stay," Farrell said. "Obviously, this is the first opportunity that he's able to evaluate his own stuff against a good fastball-hitting team, and he should take away a lot of positives in the six innings of work tonight."
Webster's first outing in the big leagues was a good one.
"It was a shock," he said when he was told by PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina about his promotion to the big leagues. "Everything happened so fast. I was like, 'Wow.'"
Webster was able to mix in all of his pitches, but his fastball and changeup were sharp and effective for the majority of the outing.
"I felt great," Webster said. "My arm felt good. We were on the same page all game. It was just a couple of unlucky breaks, and I missed my spots in the fifth inning and gave up some runs."
His debut was an exhilarating experience but also a learning one. The Royals' Alex Gordon quickly jumped on Webster, leading off the game with a first-pitch double off the Monster.
Then, Alcides Escobar reached on a throwing error by Red Sox shortstop Pedro Ciriaco, who made a nice diving play in the hole, but air-mailed his throw over the dugout for the first error by a Red Sox infielder this season. Gordon came around to score on the miscue to give Kansas City a 1-0 lead.
With one run across and a runner standing on second, Webster settled down, settled in and pitched like a big leaguer should.
"I wasn't really expecting first-pitch swinging, but it happened, and it was good to get my feet wet," he said. "Once he got on second, I just had to make my pitches and go from there."
Webster then retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced.
"It was an experience," he said. "I'll tell you, the fans were amazing. Once I was out there, I was locked in and felt good."
In the fifth, with the Red Sox holding a 3-1 lead, Webster allowed a pair of solo home runs to George Kottaras and Gordon. The rookie did not hit his spots, and he learned a valuable lesson about big league hitters.
"If you miss your spots, they'll make you pay for it. On the two home runs, I didn't get the ball down, and they took advantage of it and made me pay," Webster said.
"I thought he did a great job," Red Sox catcher David Ross said. "I was really, really impressed."
Ross spoke with the rookie prior to the game and explained to Webster that he couldn't feel his legs during his first major league at-bat as a 25 year old with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002.
"I knew he was a little amped up," Ross said. "The first run he gave up was kind of cheap because you're not expecting the first guy to be swinging. In a doubleheader, you know those guys are locked in a little more in that second game. That first run was a cheap run, then the two homers, but I think he did a good job. That kid has a real bright future ahead of him."
Prior to Sunday night's game, Ross had only caught Webster twice in bullpen sessions during spring training. Ross also faced him during a live batting practice session and has been impressed with the right-hander.
"He has great composure, great mentality," Ross said. "He's out there to execute the pitch I put down. He did a great job today. It stinks we couldn't get the win for him."
Even though Webster was packing his bags and ready to rejoin the PawSox, it won't be long before he returns to the big leagues. His goal is to remain consistent at the Triple-A level in order to get the call again when his services are needed in Boston. He showcased that ability Sunday night, and it was a glimpse into a future full-time starter for the Red Sox.
"For his debut, he did a good job for us," Farrell said.