Webb turning heads with spotless spring

March 24th, 2021

No Giants player has elevated his stock more than  this spring.

In February, Webb appeared to be the odd man out of the starting rotation after San Francisco signed Aaron Sanchez to a one-year, $4 million deal. At the time, manager Gabe Kapler didn’t rule out the possibility that Webb could open the season in the Minors given the presence of five other veteran starters -- Kevin Gausman, Johnny Cueto, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Sanchez -- on the Giants’ roster.

But Webb continued to show that he deserves to be part of the rotation by delivering yet another dominant outing in the Giants’ 7-0 win over the Indians on Tuesday at Goodyear Ballpark. The 24-year-old right-hander became the first San Francisco starter to complete five innings this spring, allowing only one hit while striking out seven and walking none. Webb has now fired 11 scoreless innings with three hits, 17 strikeouts and one walk over four Cactus League starts this year.

“My main goal coming into the season and everything was just to kind of show that I am better than what I showed the last two years,” Webb said. “I feel like I've had glimpses of being what I'm capable of, and now it just comes down to being consistent with it. There are so many different things that go into that, and I think I'm starting to hone in on that. I feel pretty good about it.”

The Indians put only three runners on base during Webb’s outing, and two of them reached on errors -- one each by third baseman Tommy La Stella and shortstop Brandon Crawford. Webb, who threw 66 pitches, didn’t allow a hit until Jake Bauers led off the fourth with a single to left field.

Webb debuted with the Giants in 2019, but he logged a 5.36 ERA over 21 appearances over the past two seasons and struggled to pitch deep into games on a consistent basis. Over the offseason, San Francisco challenged him to work on throwing his offspeed pitches -- his changeup and slider -- for strikes, which he took to heart. In the process, Webb’s changeup emerged as an elite weapon, with backup catcher Curt Casali describing it as “just as good, if not better” than that of his former Reds teammate Luis Castillo.

“We had asked him to really gain command with his changeup by using it a lot, both in his bullpen sessions prior to the game, in his live [batting practices] and in-game,” Kapler said Tuesday. “What we found is that he's just getting better and better control and command of that pitch. He hasn’t lost any zip on his fastball. His two-seamer is looking good. We also saw him use his breaker today, and use it effectively against right-handed hitters. Good all-around spring so far. I’m pleased with Webb’s progress and looking forward to seeing more.”

Webb’s overall performance probably would have been enough to force the Giants’ hand this spring, but they’re likely to have an open spot in their rotation due to the uncertain health status of Wood, who hasn’t pitched since March 9 due to back stiffness. Wood has resumed throwing bullpens, but it’s unclear if he’ll have enough time to ramp up and be ready for Opening Day on April 1. If he has to open the season on the injured list, San Francisco will certainly have no qualms about sending Webb out there and giving him a chance to prove that he can pitch every fifth day in the Majors.

Look ahead to Opening Day?
The Giants carried most of their regular position players to Goodyear, Ariz., on Tuesday and debuted a starting lineup that could end up being quite similar to what fans will see on Opening Day in Seattle on April 1.

Tuesday’s offensive output was encouraging, as La Stella, Crawford, Donovan Solano, Austin Slater and Will Wilson each homered to account for the Giants’ seven runs.

“I think it's certainly exciting to see it all come together, at once, in a game,” Kapler said. “That's really what happened. It was a well-played game.”

Wilson, who is ranked the Giants’ No. 12 prospect by MLB Pipeline, has produced a lot of hard contact this spring, but he hadn’t had much to show for it and entered Tuesday batting .171 (6-for-35) over his first 17 Cactus League games. But the 22-year-old infielder was finally rewarded in the ninth, when he crushed a 100-mph fastball from Emmanuel Clase out to right field for his first home run of the spring.

Up next
The Giants will host the Padres on Wednesday night at Scottsdale Stadium at 7:05 p.m. PT. Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani will make his third Cactus League appearance and start opposite San Diego righty Dinelson Lamet.