How Buster Posey, Giants veterans helped Logan Webb break through in 2021

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How Posey, Giants vets helped Webb break through last season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

  • Programming note: Listen to "Logan Webb: Homegrown" on Giants Talk leading up to the full TV premiere on Tuesday, Aug. 2 on NBC Sports Bay Area.

ROCKLIN -- As Buster Posey sat on the dugout bench last October and tried to sum up a season that had ended minutes earlier, he knew that his playing career was likely over. After a decade as the face of the franchise, Posey was ready to hand that title to someone else, and it seems no accident that he went out of his way that night to praise Logan Webb.

Asked how the 107-win season could help lead to future title runs like the ones Posey was a part of, he pointed out that "Webby is a great start."

"I'm excited for him and really excited for the Giants organization just to have a young pitcher like that to build around," Posey said that night. "He should be really proud of the year he had."

When Webb looks back on his breakout season, he sends a lot of the credit back in the direction of Posey and other Giants veterans, particularly former rotation mate and close friend Kevin Gausman. Webb became a star at 24, but the road was often bumpy. He had Tommy John surgery in the minors and missed time because of a PED suspension that Webb continues to fight to this day, and he posted a 5.36 ERA over 21 appearances in his first two big league seasons.

But Webb flashed signs of what was to come last spring and then hit his stride in May, and for the next five months -- including two starts against the Dodgers in the National League Division Series -- he was as good as any pitcher in baseball.

Webb went 11-0 with a 2.20 ERA over his final 22 starts of the year, and during an interview for "Homegrown," a special that will air on NBC Sports Bay Area after Tuesday night's game, he praised the team's veterans for helping him rediscover passion for the game.

"(It was) having guys like Buster and Gausman and (Brandon Crawford) really say, 'Hey, pull your head out of your ass,' pretty much," he said.

"Homegrown" Part 1: Why Webb loved to deliver big hits as high school QB
"Homegrown" Part 2: How one high school game changed trajectory of Webb's life

Webb has built special bonds with the longtime pillars of the franchise and Gausman, his teammate for two years. Webb and his wife, Sharidan, have spent plenty of time with the Crawford family since moving their offseason home to Scottsdale, and he lights up when he details the development of his relationship with Posey, who opted out of the 2020 season, Webb's second in the big leagues.

The bond was there during games, but Webb noticed early last year that Posey was spending more time helping him out between starts and via text.

Posey's main message was built around confidence. "You're very, very good," he would tell Webb. "Why aren't you confident out there? You don't seem confident out there?"

Gausman relayed the same message in late April after a shaky start in Philadelphia. As the two sat in Gausman's room at the team hotel, Webb admitted that he didn't think he was very good.

"He looked at me like I said something about his mom," Webb said. "He really kind of told me, 'Get your head out of your ass, you're very good. You just have no confidence. You don't have any fun out there. It looks like every time you're out there, you're pissed off.'"

It is not hard to find the source of that displeasure. In 2019, Webb, 22 years old at the time, had a 2.00 ERA through five Double-A starts when Major League Baseball announced that he had been suspended 80 games for testing positive for Dehydroclhlormethylstosterone, a performance-enhancing substance. Webb released a statement that day saying he had spent weeks trying to find out how the substance had gotten into his system, writing, "I know in my heart that something someday will be put into the world to prove my innocence."

The suspension came on the heels of a long rehab process for reconstructive elbow surgery, and it weighed heavily on Webb. He had long and emotional conversations with his future wife and texted constantly with childhood friends. He talked to his parents, Erik and Christie, just about every day, and one day he made a surprising admission to his father. He was considering quitting the game he loved.

"He was in a dark place," Erik said. "I mean, he didn't know what to do. He was packing his stuff ... he was packing up, he had already started packing up his stuff and saying he was going to head home."

Christie Webb encouraged her son not to quit, to keep his head up and know his own truth, telling him constantly that he would get a chance to prove himself and put that experience in his past. He stuck it out, and he soon found he was not alone.

Since 2015, MLB has suspended 23 players for DHCMT and many of them have been just as forceful as Webb in proclaiming their innocence. One of them, Nationals catcher Tres Barrera, even filed a lawsuit against MLB and the commissioner's office after his suspension.

In April, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the labor agreement reached in March included changes to the Joint Drug Agreement that support the cases of the 23 players, although there is not much clarity about what those changes were. Many in the group of 23 want MLB to admit that it was wrong, but that feels unlikely.

Webb has found solace in fighting alongside nearly two dozen other professionals, and years after he received the news, he remains in touch with many of them.

"That group of 23, it's unfortunately kind of like a family now. I got to talk to those guys and hear about their stories and it helps you realize you're not the only one that went through this situation," Webb said. "A lot of them said the same thing, it feels like you're being convicted for a crime you know you didn't commit, and there's no way to figure out why or what happened. That's the hardest part.

"There are some things now that are coming out about it and I think people are starting to realize that there are some problems with this. I know Ken Rosenthal came out with the article and I think that gives a little perspective to people who really don't know about it, to find out, like, hey, there's something wrong with this ... it sucks that I get put in this category and there's nothing I really can do about it except for wait and have these different articles come out. We're trying to get closure for all of us."

RELATED: Webb recalls hilarious story about mment Giants drafted him

When Webb was allowed to return to the field, he quickly pitched his way to Triple-A and then up to the big leagues, making his debut at Chase Field that August. The Giants were eager to push a player they had not lost any faith in, and while the first couple of seasons in the big leagues weren't what Webb planned, he did ultimately find his stride, as well as new ways to move forward.

Along with the veterans on the roster, Webb credits Shana Alexander, the Giants' director of mental health, for helping him break through last year. He admits there were things he had "bottled up inside," but discussions with Alexander and teammates helped him move on. He became the ace of the staff, but also started to let his personality show, so much so that Crawford and Gausman would often publicly refer to him as a goofball.

"I think when you do that it kind of frees everything else up. It was like, okay, now I can really just go have fun out there, " Webb said. "I'm not thinking about other stuff, I'm not thinking about negative things. I'm just thinking about going out there and having fun and just pitching. I tried to do that every time I went out there and it really helped, and all of a sudden it got to the point where I was pitching Game 1 and Game 5 of a playoff series against the Los Angeles Dodgers."

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