PAWTUCKET -- Allen Webster remembers the first time he heard his name come up in last Augustâ€™s blockbuster trade between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers that sent him to New England.
â€śI was in the clubhouse,â€ť said Webster, who at the time, was playing for the Dodgersâ€™ Double-A team in Chattanooga, Tenn. â€śI saw my name go across the bottom of the screen on ESPN. (The trade) wasnâ€™t 100 percent, but thatâ€™s when I kind of knew.â€ť
Webster and fellow starting pitching prospect Rubby De La Rosa were soon packaged with three other young players in the Aug. 25 deal that saw Boston unload three of their high-priced players (Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett) and more than $250 million in salaries through 2018.
â€śI was definitely surprised,â€ť Webster offered at Friday afternoonâ€™s PawSox Hot Stove Media Day inside McCoy Stadium, â€śbut itâ€™s a great honor to be in a trade that big. I think being here is going to be a very good thing for me.â€ť
In Webster, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound righthander who last year was ranked the No. 2 prospect in the Dodgersâ€™ organization by Baseball America, the Red Sox have a groundball starter with a fastball that hovers between 92-94 mph and a strong change-up and slider.
Actually, Webster had hopes of becoming a big-league shortstop as a student at McMichael High in Madison, N.C., but during a relief appearance, a scout from the Dodgers clocked him in the low 90s. That caught the organizationâ€™s attention, and it soon selected him in the 18th round of the 2008 draft.
In 108 games (82 starts) over the next 4Â˝ seasons, Webster slowly made his way up the Dodgersâ€™ minor league chain, improving as a pitcher during each step up the ladder. He went 34-24 with a 3.34 ERA, striking out 456 batters and allowing just 18 home runs in 485 innings.
When the Red Sox acquired Webster, they immediately sent him to Double-A Portland and got two starts out of him, but they werenâ€™t what Webster had hoped to produce. He went 0-1 in nine innings, and while he fanned a dozen batters, he also allowed 13 hits and eight earned runs.
â€śI wasnâ€™t pressing,â€ť said Webster, who turns 23 on Feb. 10. â€śI just got away from my mechanics and I was falling behind in counts, and [the batters] took advantage of it.â€ť
If Webster didnâ€™t feel somewhat at ease during his short stint with Portland, he surely felt comfortable two weeks ago during the teamâ€™s annual Rookie Program, which saw him join De La Rosa and nine other prospects for the week-long orientation.
Not only did they take part in multiple workouts each day inside the practice bubble at Harvard University, which focused on strength and conditioning and stressed fundamentals, but they also attended seminars that taught them how to adjust to living as a Major Leaguer on and off the field.
â€śIt was a great week and a really good experience,â€ť remarked Webster, who enters this season as the No. 4 ranked prospect in the organization. â€śI got to go to Fenway Park and it was amazing. It was great just to see what my goal is and where I want to be.â€ť
In the meantime, Webster is looking forward to his first spring training with the Red Sox, and while heâ€™s a longshot to break camp with this yearâ€™s club, heâ€™s anxious to report to Fort Myers, Fla. and work on a thing or two that he hopes will translate into success down the road.
â€śFor me, itâ€™s fastball command,â€ť noted Webster. â€śI just have to keep it down and be more consistent throwing strikes. But I want to do the best I can and take everything day-by-day, so Iâ€™m going to go out there and perform every time and see where that takes me.â€ť