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How Webb can reach great heights during 2024 MLB season

How Webb can reach great heights during 2024 MLB season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The first pitch of Logan Webb's 2024 spring training debut was lined into left field by former teammate Mike Tauchman. Webb turned and smiled, shaking his head.

"First pitch, base hit. That's always fun to do," he said an hour later.

Tauchman wasn't on base for long. The next hitter, Nick Madrigal, bounced one back to the mound and Webb started a double play. He followed with a strikeout to get out of the inning.

That was the formula last season as Webb led the Majors in innings pitched, and if all goes according to plan, he'll pile up even more double plays this season. That would seem to be a tall task for a pitcher who had a league-high 30 of them last season, but the Giants feel that some spring work could put Webb in an even better position. His goal this spring and during the regular season is to do a better job of holding runners and being quick to the plate.

"I think my times were a little quicker today and that's something we've been trying to get better at," he said Saturday. "I think there was a stat that came out after the season that I was like second-worst in baseball in time to the plate and holding runners, so yeah, it's definitely something I've got to get better at and I've been working on."

Webb was near the bottom of the league in every advanced metric for holding runners and he had 20 bases stolen on with just four runners caught. He gave up the fourth-largest leads to runners, which didn't give his catchers much of a chance. For Webb, doing a better job of holding runners should help him in two ways.

First, he'll throw to Patrick Bailey just about every start, and Bailey showed last year that all you have to do is give him a fair shot and he'll shut down the running game. Keeping runners in place will also turn more of those grounders -- Webb easily led the Majors in groundball percentage -- into double plays.

"That number could get even higher if I'm able to keep them at first base," he said.

How can Webb improve on a season in which he was second in Cy Young voting? This is the answer the Giants have zeroed in on, and Webb is hopeful it leads to even bigger things ahead.

Rough start

In Bob Melvin's first game in the Giants dugout, his lineup didn't score until the ninth and made two errors. The Giants lost 8-4 to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday at Scottsdale Stadium, preventing a shutout when Yoshi Tsutsugo pulled a two-run single into right with two outs in the ninth. Otto Lopez followed with a long homer to left-center.

"Yeah, I didn't really like the way it went, to tell you the truth," Melvin said of his debut.

It wasn't a great day for the pitchers, with six of the seven giving up an earned run. The exception was prospect Hayden Birdsong, who struck out two and walked one in his lone inning.

Aside from the ninth, the highlight for Melvin might have been how many players watched the start of the game. It seemed the entire spring roster was in the dugout, which hasn't always been the case in the past.

Webb joked that he tried to high-five everyone when he came out of the game but quickly gave up.

Spring reunion

It wasn't a shock to see Pablo Sandoval set to be the DH on Sunday against the Texas Rangers. It's a long trip across the valley to Surprise, but the Giants will be facing Bruce Bochy, who remains close with Sandoval and sent him a congratulatory text earlier in the week after he signed with the Giants. That's not the reason Sandoval is going to Surprise, though.

Melvin said he didn't think about the connection and actually was planning to have Sandoval start on Monday in Scottsdale. He doesn't want him coming off the bench, but Sandoval didn't want to wait until the third game, so he'll make a drive that veterans usually never have to worry about.

Early scare

Heliot Ramos has been a standout in workouts but he came out of Saturday's game after getting hit on the knee in his second at-bat. Ramos went down right away and was limping as he came off the field, but Melvin said he was feeling much better after the game. Ramos was originally in the lineup for Sunday's game against the Rangers and said he wants to play.

In addition to Ramos and Sandoval, Tyler Fitzgerald (shortstop), Tom Murphy (catcher), LaMonte Wade Jr. (first base), David Villar (third base), Wade Meckler (left field), Luis Matos (center field) and Donovan Walton (second base) are scheduled to play the first road game. Kyle Harrison will be on the mound, a strong indication that he will open the season as the No. 2 starter.

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