NBC Sports

Giants still believe Webb can be better than 10-K performance

NBC Sports
Curt Casali and Logan Webb

Logan Webb is a 24-year-old sponge, eager to soak up as much knowledge as he can while serving as one of the youngest contributors on the oldest team in the big leagues. For the last two years, he has found a mentor in fellow Giants right-hander Kevin Gausman. Recently, he has been drawn to Alex Wood, who has helped him find better ways to locate his pitches and attack hitters. 

Webb is eager to learn between starts, always watching on the dugout rail with veteran starters and picking up things he can use and discarding lessons he can't. Sometimes you have to learn during a start, though, and sometimes what you're being told is not really just a suggestion given where the message is coming from. 

That was the case after the top of the first inning in the Giants' 4-2 win over the Texas Rangers at Oracle Park on Tuesday, when Webb struggled with his command but wriggled out of too much damage. When he returned to the dugout, he found himself in front of Buster Posey and Curt Casali, two men with a combined 20 years in the big leagues. When they told Webb to pick up his tempo, he knew he had to take that to heart. 

"Heck yeah. Those guys are two very, very impressive baseball players" Webb said, smiling. "I try to learn everything I can from these guys and kind of just pick their brains. I think that just changed my outing a little bit today after the first inning when they came up and told me that."

 

Webb ramped up the tempo and the rest of the Giants followed along, picking up a win over the Rangers that clinched a mini-sweep and a 4-1 homestand. They are 22-14 behind one of the best rotations in baseball, and Webb continues to make a case that he should be a steady part of it no matter what the health of the more seasoned starters looks like. 

Webb struck out a career-high 10 in six-plus innings, becoming the youngest Giants starter since Madison Bumgarner in 2013 to reach double-digits. He has three quality starts in his last four appearances, the lone exception being a day at Coors Field.

Webb is starting to hit his potential, but the Giants aren't going to be happy with just quality starts. For the second time in three weeks, manager Gabe Kapler praised Webb for all he did, then issued a challenge. 

"I'm just going to stay with this messaging: There's even more in there," Kapler said. "He can be around the plate a little bit more, he can attack the strike zone and get ahead in more counts. And this is what excites us about Logan Webb. We're not going to be satisfied until we see his best and I don't think we've seen it yet.

"I don't think today was his best, but certainly he came out of it with a strong outing and a win and that's what's most important, but I'm going to keep hammering it. This guy has got a really, really high ceiling and there's better in there."

Webb doesn't need to read the stories or watch Kapler's Zoom clips to know he's being challenged. He said that message is conveyed to him often behind closed doors. 

"I'm happy that they challenge me, for sure," Webb said. "It's definitely something we talk about in here, too. I'll kind of just keep it at that. I like the challenge, though. It's cool when he says stuff like that."

The Giants -- from Kapler to the veteran starters to the catching duo -- challenge Webb because they know the rotation's youngest pitcher (by far) has the potential to be a frontline starter. Webb has hit some speed bumps, but he has the power sinker, the slider, and the oft-dominant changeup to put it all together. 

This is an organization now built on rebuilding veterans with good stuff but inconsistent results. It would be much more fruitful, though, to find similar success with a cost-controlled young starter under team control for years to come. 

Webb has responded to the challenges. The front office filled the rotation with veteran additions late in the offseason and Webb went out and had the best month of the bunch, winning a spot. He got off to a slow start and was pulled from the rotation when Wood returned, but he quickly got his spot back and responded with his best stretch as a pro. 

 
RELATED: Kyle Harrison becomes fifth Giants' top 100 prospect

On Tuesday, after Posey and Casali challenged him to work faster, Webb turned his day around. He struck out five straight at one point and was cruising until a leadoff homer in the seventh ended his day. 

Webb said he used to rush things when he was called up in 2019, but he had gone too far the other way. He's a sinker-baller who relies on grounders and strikeouts, and it was good to get a reminder that he should work faster and get his defense involved.

"As soon as he just calmed down and didn't try to throw the ball too hard, just kind of threw it over the plate and let his stuff work, that's how you get a lot of innings out of him," Casali said. "We say it over and over: He still hasn't hit his stride yet, but today was a nice preview of what he can do for us."

Download and subscribe to the Giants Talk Podcast