SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Giants pitching prospect Logan Webb grew up in Rocklin, a few miles from Sacramento, so he reasonably could have chosen to root for either Bay Area team. Webb leaned towards the A’s as a teenager, but as he has gotten closer and closer to the big leagues, it has become clear that he was drafted into the organization that was the best fit.
Webb likes to pitch with what he calls a “bulldog mentality,” so earlier this spring he sought out Madison Bumgarner to discuss harnessing that emotion on the mound. A couple of years after getting drafted, he found himself learning from a rehabbing Jake Peavy. Last season, Webb had a half-dozen sit-downs with Ryan Vogelsong, now a roving instructor in the organization.
If you want to be a bulldog on the mound, you couldn’t find a better trio of teachers, and none of those three would tell a young pitcher like Webb to try and be someone else.
“That’s something that you don’t want to change about him. It's one of the things I like about him,” Vogelsong said. “He’s not afraid to get mad at himself. You just need to learn to channel it a little bit better.”
That can take a while for a young pitcher. As a 20-year-old, Bumgarner once got so mad during a Triple-A game that he was ejected and practically pulled off the field before he turned and whipped the baseball towards the outfield wall. The Giants were not concerned. Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti watched the YouTube clip before Bumgarner was promoted and liked the fire the young pitcher had shown. Four years later, with Bumgarner dominating the postseason, Dick Tidrow smiled as he recalled the incident.
“We thought that (showed) a lot of arm strength,” he said.
Webb, 22, couldn't hide his grin recently as he told the story of a night last season that might have turned out similarly. He was upset with an A-ball umpire, and when manager Lipso Nava pulled him from the game, Webb thought it was because he was about to get kicked out anyway.
“He came out and told me I was going to Double-A,” he said. “Then I started smiling.”
Webb earned that promotion with a strong run through the hitter-friendly California League. In his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, he posted a 1.82 ERA in 21 appearances — 20 starts — for San Jose, riding a mid 90s fastball that fills the zone and has late life. Baseball America named him one of the 20 prospects in the league.
“He pitches with a chip on his shoulder,” Visalia manager Joe Mather told the publication. “He just has a knack for getting outs, quick outs, and throwing the ball in the strike zone.”
Webb had a solid six-start stretch with Double-A Richmond, which is a short flight from Vogelsong’s home in Georgia. When the Giants legend would visit, Webb would try to sit next to him in the dugout and soak up as much as he could.
“He’s a little more intense than I am on the days I’m pitching, but the way he harnessed it and his routine and everything he did was to calm him down in that moment, and that’s something I’m trying to work on,” Webb said.
Some of the lessons were about how to prepare in the day leading up to a start. Some were about things Webb had never given much thought to. Webb doesn’t have a lot of experience facing opposing pitchers, but he has found that it’s weird to see one in the box, and often worried about hitting his counterpart. Vogelsong encouraged him to treat the opposing pitcher like he would anyone else. “Go after him like he’s a normal hitter,” Webb was taught, “Because if you walk him or give up a hit you’re going to be pissed at yourself.”
Webb has continued to bank knowledge this spring. The Giants added him to the 40-man roster in November and believe he has a good chance to be part of their next wave of homegrown pitching, along with guys like Shaun Anderson and Garrett Williams. All of them are in camp to learn and fill in late in games, and thus far Webb has struck out three in 2 2/3 scoreless relief innings.
[RELATED: How Webb shot up Giants rankings]
Soon, Webb will head back to minor league camp to stretch out as a starter. He figures to begin the year at Double-A, working on improving his off-speed pitches -- he relied mostly on his fastball last year because of of an innings limit -- and finding the right mentality. Vogelsong believes Webb is already well on his way, but the lessons will continue.
"He knows as well as everybody else that I was as emotional as it got," Vogelsong said. "It took me a while to figure out how to channel adrenaline and anger and be able to be mad and get over it real quick and get into making the next pitch. That's stuff that he and I have talked about, and it'll come with repetitions and experience. He'll know when to use it and when it's hurting him and he needs to back off a little bit."