Dominant in playoffs, Giants’ Logan Webb builds on breakout year

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – San Francisco Giants right-hander Logan Webb turned a heavy two-seam fastball and a new-found confidence into a breakout 2021 season.

It made for some interesting dugout viewing.

“You could see some of the better hitters, with the best eye-hand coordination in the game, still having difficulty finding the sweet spot on the bat,” San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler said.

After he was so poised and so dominant against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series, the 25-year-old Webb is expected to play a leading role in a Giants’ rotation that includes newcomers Carlos Rodon and Alex Cobb in place of Kevin Gausman and Johnny Cueto.

Webb is off to a good start this spring after two outings, allowing one run in five innings while striking out 10.

An efficient pitching staff and an offense that hit a team-record 241 home runs helped the Giants to franchise-most 107 victories last season, and they’re optimistic their success will continue in a division that added big bats Freddie Freeman and Kris Bryant, among others.

But as last season, the Giants find themselves under-appreciated in spring, many picking them to finish farther back in the NL West. It is nothing new.

“We had a goal from the beginning of spring training last year,” Webb said. “The way everyone kind of viewed us, not much faith in our team, and we had 107 wins.”

“It’s kind of the same thing again this year. That’s a little extra that we can use. I think our goals are bigger this year. I’m excited, and everyone is excited.”

Webb was 5-7 with a 5.36 ERA in parts of two seasons before blossoming last year.

Webb was 11-3 with a 3.06 ERA in his first full season in the rotation, and he finished with a flourish in two stellar starts on the national stage in the five-game NLDS.

In the opener, he struck out 10 in 7 2/3 scoreless innings of a 4-0 win. In the deciding Game 5, he left after seven innings with the score tied at 1. Overall, he struck out 17 and walked just one.

“He’s got something inside of him that you can’t find very often – he has that ability to step on a grand stage and completely dominate like he did against LA in the playoffs,” Giants catcher Curt Casali said.

“You just don’t find guys like as often as you would like.”

Webb’s repertoire includes a changeup and a slider, helping him strike out 158 with 36 walks in 148 1/3 innings. He would have ranked between Gausman and returning teammate Anthony DeSclafani in the top 12 in the NL in ERA had he reached the minimum 162 innings.

“Strikes. Confidence,” Kapler said. “He recognized that all of his pitches play well in the zone, that he didn’t need to be fine with those pitches. All of them starting in the middle of the plate and moving where they move.”

“Once he realized that was a really good path to getting quick outs, and he was able to pitch deeper into games because he wasn’t working deep counts, that was a big confidence booster. He took on that persona the second half the year,” he said.

Webb said he relied on veterans like Gausman, catchers Buster Posey and Casali and clubhouse leaders Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt to show the way.

“When you hear these guys’ stories about how they did it, you learn how to do it as it goes,” Webb said. “You start to get more confidence in everything that you do. That maybe you do belong here. That’s a huge deal. I didn’t really have that my first two years,” he said.

“When you first come up, you see guys like the lineup and, `Oh my god, I don’t want to be on ESPN tonight giving up the 500-foot home run.’ You kind of pitch away from them. Then it’s like, `No, you can pitch.’ You just need that confidence. Those guys gave me that confidence. I talked to Buster so much before the playoff games to get how he kind of handled the pressure,” he said.

Webb had a 1.61:1 ratio of groundouts to flyouts, one of the best in the NL., while throwing his 93 mph fastball about half the time. He made a career-high 26 starts after making 21 appearances in his first two seasons.

The potential for a breakout season was evident in spring training, Casali said.

“Buster and I were pretty much on the same page that he had some of the best stuff on our team, movement and speed,” Casali said.

“I don’t think he really knew that happy medium of hard how he needed to throw it. As he continued to fill up the strike zone, no one could really hit his stuff. It (two-seamer) is just hard to square up. It is moving differently each time you throw it. That gives you a lot of confidence to be aggressive with it,” he said.

Dodgers sign OF Jason Heyward to minor league deal

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers signed outfielder Jason Heyward to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training.

The 33-year-old was released by the Chicago Cubs earlier this offseason.

Heyward, who was injured at times last season, put up the worst offensive numbers of his career, batting .204 and with 10 RBIs and one home run in 137 plate appearances. However, he’s a valuable defender in the outfield.

The deal reunites Heyward with first baseman Freddie Freeman. They came up through the Atlanta Braves system and have remained friends ever since.

Heyward was a leader in the Cubs’ clubhouse, helping them win the 2016 World Series.