SCOTTSDALE — To borrow from “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” spring training is a time when the runs are made up and results don’t matter.
Logan Webb is testing that truism, as striking out four batters in an inning is a feat in any league.
The 24-year-old has been the biggest pitching standout of the Giants’ spring, now up to six scoreless, two-hit innings after his three impressive frames Saturday, which opened with his missing bats and Buster Posey’s glove once.
Four legitimate major league hitters in Eddie Rosario, Andres Gimenez, Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes all swung through Webb changeups in the first. Only Ramirez reached first because the offspeed in the dirt got by Posey, but Webb didn’t blink and punched out Reyes, too.
He got back to the dugout and apologized to Posey for not directing him to where the ball was.
“They told me to stop apologizing,” said a smiling Webb, who wasn’t sure if he had put up a four-K inning in any league in his pitching history.
“It’s as good as I’ve ever seen his changeup look,” Gabe Kapler said after the technically 5-4 victory over Cleveland at Scottsdale Stadium, in which the Giants added two runs in a theoretical bottom of the ninth. “I don’t want to overdo it here, but he’s been really impressive in this camp. And he’s been really impressive because he’s doing exactly what we had hoped and kind of prompted him to do, which is use the secondary weapons with the same level of confidence that he uses his fastball.”
Webb is competing for a big-league spot that was far more assured before the Giants brought in Aaron Sanchez, who has yet to debut in the Cactus League. San Francisco has a rotation of five veterans, and behind the injury-prone group is a sea of candidates for a sixth starter or long man. Along with Webb is Scott Kazmir, Shun Yamaguchi, Nick Tropeano and Conner Menez. Webb has the highest upside and has caught the most eyes in the early going, but there’s a solid chance the Giants put him in Sacramento once camp breaks, wanting his work consistent and to keep him as a starter.
Webb’s stuff is making an argument that he should be with the club on April 1. He has throwing strikes with confidence and is throwing virtually anything Posey signals.
Webb shook off the catcher just once during his three one-hit, no-walk, six-strikeout innings. (The one shake-off resulted in a strikeout, Webb saying he was glad he didn’t “mess that up.”)
In his first three outings, Webb has been more around the plate than he was last year, and perhaps the catcher is an important variable in that equation.
Posey has caught two of the three Webb outings thus far. He puts down fingers, and Webb nods his head.
“How could you not?” said Webb, who has 19 career starts and struggled to a 5.47 ERA last year. “He’s such a student of the game — he knows everything about everybody. It’s so fun because you just know that’s the right pitch.”
The right pitch, for Webb, has been the changeup, which Kapler said has a chance to be “elite.” If he continues this push, perhaps the Giants will throw a curveball and keep him with the club after it leaves Arizona.