Maybe all Allen Webster needed was a change in location. No, not away from Double-A Chattanooga or out of the Dodgers organization. Just a few feet away in the bullpen.
The 22-year-old right-hander suffered through a difficult stretch early this season, going 1-5 with a 7.49 ERA in seven starts before becoming a short reliever in mid-May. After striking out 10 and allowing one run over eight innings out of the bullpen, Webster seems to be making the most of his second chance.
The Dodgers' No. 2 prospect recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts and allowed one run on five hits over six innings Friday as the Lookouts posted a 4-1 rain-shortened victory over Tennessee.
Webster (4-8) struck out six of the first 10 Smokies he faced, including the team's top two hitters, Junior Lake and Logan Watkins, to open the game.
His only trouble came in his sixth and final frame. Watkins doubled and Jae-Hoon Ha and Justin Bour followed with singles to give the Cubs' Southern League affiliate its only run of the night. Webster, MLB.com's No. 66 overall prospect, retired Greg Rohan, Michael Burgess and Nelson Perez to close his outing.
Friday marked the first time that Webster had reached double-digits in punchouts since May 14, 2010 for Class A Great Lakes. In nine starts since returning from the bullpen, he's 3-3 with a 2.11 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 47 innings. For the season, the North Carolina native is 4-8 with a 4.06 ERA.
Last month, those around the hurler had confidence he would be able to complete a turnaround.
"He's got the best stuff in the league," Lookouts pitching coach Chuck Crim told MiLB.com, adding, "The baseball gods hadn't been good to him. He needed a change of scenery."
Matt Wallach homered twice and drove in three runs in support of Webster. The Cal State-Fullerton product had only two longballs in his first 46 games and was mired in a 4-for-41 slump before Friday's 2-for-3 performance.