BOSTON -- Gary Hughes, who at 72 is serving as a consultant to the Red Sox near the end of what has been a legendary scouting career, came up and introduced himself to 23-year-old Sox rookie Allen Webster in the Sox clubhouse Wednesday night.
This was after Webster, in his second big league start, had been lit up for eight runs on six hits (including two home runs and three doubles) by the Minnesota Twins in 1 2/3 innings, and before he had to face a media scrum to talk about it.
"Take it from an old scout," Hughes said to Webster. "You're going to have a helluva career. You just had a horses---t start tonight."
Webster smiled in gratitude.
Joel Hanrahan was just six starts into his big league career for the Washington Nationals when he took the mound in Denver's Coors Field and was battered for nine runs on eight hits and five walks in 3 2/3 innings by the Rockies. He understood what it felt like to be Webster, standing in front of the TV cameras and trying to explain why things had gone so wrong, so fast.
The interrogation lasted a minute and a half, if that. Webster, babyfaced and soft-spoken, talked about not having his command, and throwing too many pitches down the middle.
"They made me pay," he said. "Take it as a lesson learned, move on, try to do better the next time."
Hanrahan was at his locker while Webster was surrounded in the middle of the clubhouse. The Sox reliever is dealing with his own significant issues, namely whether he may need surgery on his right elbow. He is scheduled to be examined by noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday.
But he set aside his own concerns to talk about Webster, and how it feels when this is all so new to you and people are asking you why you just failed miserably.
"It's awful," Hanrahan said, "especially in this big a market. You already feel [expletive], and some people understand that it's a kid, but some people don't understand it's his second start. He knows what's going on, he knows he's probably here just to make a start.
"But I mean, it's part of the business, part of the job."
Yes, part of the job, one for which Webster likely will be handsomely compensated one day, but that still doesn't make it any easier to go through.
"I've been in that spot," Hanrahan said. "Obviously when I was in Washington I started, had a game very similar to the one he had today. And I knew that I had to talk to [reporters], but unfortunately, you have a long time to think about what you're going to say, and it's a tough spot.
"You know you have to do it, but it stinks at the same time. Especially when you're young, you don't want to let [reporters] get you down. You guys can ask questions that can bring a guy down, so you just have to try and stay positive with it. Know that, you know what, he's 23 years old, his second big league start. He's going to be back. You got to look at that."
Veterans tend to be watchful in such circumstances, Hanrahan said, silently wishing for the media to hurry up and let the kid be.
"We all know what that's like, we've all been there, we've all done that," he said. "He's 23 years old. I was 23 years old, and I was back in A ball, trying to figure it out. This kid's got a bright future. The older guys, John Lackey took him under his wing today. [Webster] came back down to the dugout in the fourth inning and sat next to Lackey for the rest of the game. These guys are going to take good care of him."
When Webster had made his first start here, as an emergency starter in an April 21 doubleheader against the Royals, manager John Farrell had praised Webster for having beyond-his-years composure. Webster gave up a leadoff double that afternoon, and two batters into the game, he trailed 1-0.
But he struck out the next two batters, and showed off an impressive array of pitches while keeping the Royals at bay. Even when he was taken deep twice in the fifth inning, he came back out in the sixth and put up another zero. There was little doubt that afternoon that Webster, who returned to Pawtucket after that game, would be back in Boston, sooner than later.
Farrell detected no less composure on Wednesday, just too many missed locations on pitches. Webster figures to return to Pawtucket again, but despite the outcome, there should be few doubts that he will be back here again, sooner than later.
Take it from an old scout.