Webb throws first bullpen session in 10 days

Webb throws first bullpen session in 10 days

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The world-wide Webb watch was in full force on Sunday at the Rangers' complex. Even club president Nolan Ryan was in attendance to watch Brandon Webb throw off a mound for the first time in 10 days.

Webb threw about 28 pitches in 10 minutes. That constitutes a light session, but Webb was thrilled with the results.

"It was good," Webb said. "Zero issues. Real good. I was a little wild, but I guess that's expected. I felt fine, I didn't want to stop."

The Rangers stopped him. Just getting back on the mound was a significant step for Webb, and the Rangers decided to declare victory and call it a day.

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"He got on a mound," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "That's what we wanted to do."

This was the first time Webb had been on a mound since Feb. 17. He had been throwing off the mound back home in Kentucky before coming to the camp, but the Rangers stopped that after his first session here. Maddux didn't like Webb's arm strength and mechanics, so they opted for a 10-day long-toss program. They accomplished what they wanted in that program, so Webb was able to climb the hill on Sunday.

"We found some things in long toss, now he has to find himself on the mound," Maddux said. "He needs to break off the knots and rust. We built a program so that when he gets on a mound, he feels good about everything.

"We want him to come back one time. That's the program."

There are still no concrete targets for Webb to pitch in a game, and the Rangers are making no predictions about him being ready for Opening Day. But they are preparing for the possibility that he will need more time in the Minors once the regular season begins.

"You have to feel like anybody not pitching on the normal time frame, you have to have concerns about being ready for Opening Day," Ryan said. "If they need extra innings, they can do that at Triple-A or Double-A. You need to think in the best interests of him and the club. We'll continue to monitor it."

The Rangers will wait and see how Webb feels Monday before they determine his next step. He could throw every other day or every third day off a mound, with long-toss sessions in between. He will likely need several mound sessions before graduating to live batting practice.

The next step would be a game. For Webb, that could still be at least another ten days -- depending on how his mound sessions go. Starters generally need 5-6 outings in Spring Training to get ready for the season. They usually begin at two innings and 30 pitches, and increase gradually -- adding one inning and 15 pitches per outing. C.J. Wilson had six outings and 25 innings last spring. Rich Harden had six starts and 22 1/3 innings.

It is highly unlikely that Webb will have the time to come close to that this spring. That will leave it up to the Rangers if they want to push him into the season, or give him more time on a medical rehabilitation assignment in the Minors. Given that they have been cautious to this point, it doesn't seem likely that they will push him.

"You have to build up like everybody else, up to 100 pitches and go from there," Maddux said.

"Everybody is different," said Ryan, who spoke with Webb after his session. "It's hard for me to predict. Today was the first day I've seen him throw. It's just a matter of how much progress he makes between now and Opening Day."

Webb was the 2006 National League Cy Young Award winner for the D-backs, and a 22-game winner in 2008. But hasn't pitched in a Major League game since Opening Day of 2009.

After throwing more innings than any other Major League pitcher from 2005-08, Webb missed almost two seasons because of a shoulder injury. He had surgery on Aug. 9, 2009. He tried to rush back last Spring Training with failed comeback attempts, and ended up missing the season.

"We're going to come back one time," Maddux said. "That's the program."

Webb is slotted in as the third starter in the Rangers' rotation, behind C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. Right now, Matt Harrison is making that start on Tuesday against the Mariners in Peoria.

Webb will be doing his work on the back fields for the time being. But Sunday's mound session was a good start.

"Definitely a step in the right direction," Webb said. "Movement was good, location was good, changeup was good. I just need to get on a mound."

And stay there.

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.