'It's an honor': Webb gets Opening Day start in Bronx

Giants ace excited for opportunity to pitch in front of family at Yankee Stadium on March 30

March 15th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There was never much mystery over who would start for the Giants on Opening Day, but manager Gabe Kapler made the news official on Tuesday: will get the ball for the club’s regular-season opener at Yankee Stadium on March 30.

Plenty of intriguing subplots will surround Webb’s second consecutive Opening Day start, as he’s expected to oppose Yankees ace Gerrit Cole (Brandon Crawford’s brother-in-law) and take on a lineup headlined by reigning American League MVP Aaron Judge, whom Webb unsuccessfully tried to recruit to San Francisco in the offseason.

“It’s an honor to be able to say I started on Opening Day, especially because we’ll be at Yankee Stadium,” Webb said following the Giants’ 7-6 win over the D-backs at Salt River Fields. “My family’s pretty excited about it. I think there’s like 50 people coming, so it’s going to be just like pitching at home. I’m excited.”

At 26, Webb is the youngest member of San Francisco’s starting rotation, but he’ll be tasked with setting the tone for a deep staff that has the potential to be among the best in MLB, even without All-Star left-hander Carlos Rodón, who also left to join the Yanks on a six-year, $162 million deal. He is not expected to pitch in the opening series as he’s currently sidelined with a left elbow strain.

Kapler said veteran right-hander Alex Cobb will likely start the second game of the season, though the club has not yet determined how it will line up the rest of its rotation. Aside from Webb and Cobb, the Giants have Ross Stripling, Sean Manaea, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood, as well as Jakob Junis, who is expected to open the season in the bullpen.

With six starters vying for five rotation spots, the Giants could try piggybacking some of their veterans to help manage workloads early in the season.

“I think the way we continue to look at it is 162 starts, and how do you cover those 162,” Kapler said. “My message to our starting pitchers is pretty simple: All of these guys are going to get a ton of starts, and those are going to be important.”

Webb went 15-9 with a 2.90 ERA over a career-high 192 1/3 innings in 2022, but Kapler said the Giants are continuing to challenge the Rocklin, Calif., native to improve in other facets of his game.

“He can do a better job of controlling the running game,” Kapler said. “When pitchers start to really push for the value on the margins, it’s a signal that a guy is really taking a step forward. He’s also developed physically. He’s bigger, stronger than he has been. And he’s got a good feel for his slider right now, which is super encouraging with two weeks to go.”

Webb wasn’t pleased with his breaking ball at the outset of his start against the D-backs, but he managed to find it as his outing progressed and said he was pleased with his results overall. He departed after allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and one walk to go with two strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings in his third Cactus League start.

“The first inning was awful,” Webb said. “But after that, I thought it was actually really good. I don’t know how many swing-and-misses I necessarily got on it, but when I can get ground balls with the slider, that’s how I know it’s kind of moving the right way. I’ve been messing around with a couple of different grips, and it felt really good today. Honestly, that was the best I felt all spring.”