Logan Webb leaned forward on the mound, shuffling the ball and getting ready a grip. In a rare slip-up from a smoothly run couple days of Oracle Park camp, the sprinklers went off around the young pitcher.
Webb handled it well, eventually walking off as a groundskeeper came to shut them off. It’s just a good thing Buster Posey was not speaking literally in his praise.
“His stuff was electric,” Posey said Saturday on a Zoom call. “I thought a tick or two up from the spring.”
Posey also caught Kevin Gausman, but he wanted to single out the 23-year-old from Rocklin, who no longer will have to deal with an innings limit that hovered above his spring training 1.0. He reworked his arsenal this offseason, under the eyes of Giants coaches Brian Bannister and Matt Daniels, and entered February’s camp with a slurvy offering more distinct than his curveball was last year.
Without Tyler Beede, who was set for the No. 5 spot, Webb could fill out the rotation — or at least what resembles a rotation this season. The Giants don’t expect any of their starters to go beyond four innings to start the season after this three-week camp. Gabe Kapler seemed hesitant to even use the word “starter,” saying Webb is on the radar for a “bulk-innings role.”
“We see him in a role for us to take multiple innings,” the manager said after Webb’s first live batting practice session of the camp. “We’ll try to build him up as much as possible to be able to lengthen him out. … We’re stressing to all our pitchers, not just Logan, the mindset of being flexible and getting built up as much as possible.”
After spending much of his offseason in Arizona, Webb went back home to Sacramento, living with his family throughout the pandemic. He had some access to gyms and had a couple professional catchers (Colorado’s Dom Nunez, Pittsburgh’s Nick Mears) nearby to catch his sessions. He seems to have come back in shape.
Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Gausman and Drew Smyly will get starts. Webb leads the next group of possibilities and could piggyback off a couple innings of, say, Trevor Cahill or Tyler Anderson.
In trying to get the pitching and hitting as ready as possible to start a rushed season in just a few short weeks, the Giants have been striving to simulate actual baseball. Saturday’s Day Two was the first look at live batting practice, with the hitters expected to run the bases, too. In one instance, Evan Longoria grounded to shortstop then stepped back into the box. He rolled his head, remembering, and belatedly took off for first.
Along with Webb, Smyly, Gausman and Tyler Rogers got in sessions during the media’s time at the the park (and Rogers’ “Yellow Submarine” warmup song will return this year). In the left-field corner were an improvised mound and batting cage, with hitters taking bunting practice. The bullpen mounds, now safely beyond the fences, were active. Outfielders were shagging fly balls in shallow right-center field.
It felt and looked like baseball, every inch of the field being used. The one hiccup Webb brushed off as his ramp up begins to what he hopes will be a breakout season.