Giants ace 'trying to get better' with runners on base

February 25th, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Opening Day is more than a month away, but there’s not much mystery as to who will take the mound for the Giants when they kick off their regular-season campaign at Petco Park on March 28.

is all but certain to get the starting assignment against the Padres, so perhaps it wasn’t that surprising to see him do the honors for the Giants’ Cactus League slate as well.

Webb gave up two runs on three hits over two innings as the Giants fell to the Cubs, 8-4, in their Cactus League opener at Scottsdale Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The 27-year-old right-hander struck out two and walked none in the 33-pitch outing, topping out at 93 mph.

Webb didn’t have to wait long to be tested, as he surrendered a first-pitch leadoff single to former Giant Mike Tauchman, who was quickly erased from the basepaths after Nick Madrigal grounded into a 1-4-3 double play.

“First pitch, base hit, so that’s always fun to do,” Webb said. “But it was good to get back out there, get the nerves out of the way.”

Webb struck out Patrick Wisdom swinging on a 92 mph sinker to cap an eight-pitch first inning, but he fell into a jam after the Cubs placed runners on the corners with one out in the second. Webb has been trying to do a better job of holding runners this year, but he allowed Miles Mastrobuoni to steal second and get into scoring position, setting up Brennen Davis’ two-out, two-run single to left field.

“I think my time [to the plate with runners on base was] a little quicker today,” Webb said. “It’s something that I’m trying to get better at.”

Webb led the Majors with a 62.1 percent groundball rate in 2023, but he also ranked fourth in base advances allowed over the last two seasons. Webb took notice of the new Baseball Savant metric over the offseason and became determined to keep more runners at first to maximize his double-play opportunities moving forward.

It’s just one way Webb could become even better and continue to build on his impressive showing in 2023, when he placed second in National League Cy Young voting after posting a 3.25 ERA over a Major League-high 216 innings in 33 starts.

“He’s one of those guys that’s never going to get complacent or happy with, ‘Here I am as a pitcher,’” manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s always looking to get better. In camp here, he’s trying to be a little quicker to the plate because he gives up his share of stolen bases. He understands with his groundball rates, if we can keep guys on first base more, it gives an opportunity for more double plays and to be even more economical in his pitches. I think he’s kind of a rare guy.”

Worth noting

Outfielder Heliot Ramos came out of the game in the fifth inning after being struck on the right knee by an 83 mph breaking ball from Cubs pitcher Luke Little. Ramos, 24, limped off the field, but Melvin said he was feeling better after the game and could return to the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Rangers.

The Giants were shut out through the first eight innings before non-roster invitee Yoshi Tsutsugo finally got them on the board with a two-out, two-run single to right field in the ninth. Otto Lopez followed with a two-run homer to left-center field, marking the club’s only extra-base hit of the game.

Up next

Left-hander Kyle Harrison will make his spring debut as the Giants head to Surprise Stadium to take on Bruce Bochy’s World Series champion Rangers on Sunday afternoon. Pablo Sandoval, who played under Bochy for most of his Giants tenure, is slated to bat fifth and start at designated hitter.