Webb eyeing return to summit

Webb eyeing return to summit

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Brandon Webb goes mountain-climbing on Sunday for the first time in a while.

Webb will resume throwing off a mound after spending the past 10 days on a long-toss program designed to build up arm strength.

"How about that?" Webb said. "I'm ready to go. I had a good week, a real good week. I definitely see a huge difference. In a week's time frame, you don't know how much you can build up, but I see a huge difference. It seems to have worked."

Webb was the National League Cy Young Award winner in 2006 with the Diamondbacks and a 22-game winner in 2008 before missing almost two complete seasons with a shoulder injury that required surgery on Aug. 3, 2009.

Webb hasn't pitched in a Major League game since Opening Day of 2009. He was hoping to pitch last year, but rushed back too quickly and had constant setbacks. He pitched four innings over three outings in Instructional League in September before signing a one-year contract as a free agent with the Rangers.

Webb was throwing off the mound back home in Kentucky before coming to camp and did so during the first official workout for pitchers and catchers on Feb. 17. But pitching coach Mike Maddux wasn't happy with his mechanics or arm strength. So the decision was made to limit Webb to flat-ground throwing and long toss until other issues could be worked out.

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Now, he is back up on the mound.

"We did what we wanted to do," Maddux said. "We got an idea of his arm slot and his work zone. He is now where he needs to be to maximize his throwing program."

Webb is slotted into the third spot in the Rangers' rotation, behind C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis, but won't be making that start for a while. Matt Harrison pitches on Tuesday in the Rangers' third Cactus League game.

Webb should pitch in Cactus League games before leaving Arizona, but it's still unknown if he'll be ready by Opening Day. The Rangers aren't worried if he will or not, and Maddux isn't looking too far beyond Sunday's mound session.

The Rangers aren't going to push Webb to be ready by the start of the season. The main goal is to have him ready for the long run.

"That's how we see it -- Opening Day is not the finish line," Webb said. "You don't want to go back to last year, but as long as I feel good, I don't see any reason why we can't push it."

Right now, the Rangers have 12 candidates for the rotation, paired up in twos. C.J. Wilson and David Bush pitch on Sunday against the Royals, and Colby Lewis and Michael Kirkman will pitch on Monday against them.

Webb is paired up with Harrison, but won't pitch on Tuesday. Tommy Hunter and Alexi Ogando pitch on Wednesday against the Angels. The Rangers have a split-squad arrangement on Thursday, playing the Indians in Surprise and the Cubs in Tempe.

Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz and Tanner Scheppers are all scheduled to pitch that day. Hurley is paired with Scheppers, but may not be ready because he missed several days with a mild hamstring strain, though he has resumed throwing off the mound.

Now, Webb gets to join him and everybody else.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.