Webb takes next step in comeback

Webb takes next step in comeback

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Brandon Webb threw 62 pitches during a live batting practice session on Wednesday morning. That was the easy part.

The hard part came afterward: the usual post-throwing conference with the media in which every pitch is dissected, progress is assessed and timetables are discussed. Little is actually decided except this:

Webb is 100-percent healthy, but is still putting his overall game back together again after missing almost two complete seasons because of a shoulder injury.

"I don't know timetables. ... I don't know much," Webb said. "All I know is I felt good and this was another step forward."

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The Rangers know that Webb will pitch for them this season, and they know it will be sooner than later. They know he was a Cy Young winner in 2006 and a 22-game winner for the D-backs in 2008. They know that he once had the best sinker in baseball. They know he is not ready yet.

They know he is worth their patience and they weren't expecting him to light up the morning while throwing to actual hitters for the first time since Instructional League in September.

"Some good, some not so good," manager Ron Washington said after the session was over. "That's to be expected. He couldn't find any consistency. The more he throws, the more he'll find that consistency.

"He did show sink and that's his game. But I don't think the sinker he had out there today will be the sinker he will have when his arm is ready. ... The sink was there, it just wasn't heavy."

That means his sinker isn't diving off the table and getting batters to hit weak ground balls. He said he's not throwing the curveball for strikes and not getting many swings and misses on the changeup. But this is a pitcher who missed two years and is basically three to four weeks behind other pitchers.

The bottom line is Webb is healthy and has his whole package back together, now he has to fine-tune everything -- pitches, delivery, mechanics -- before he is ready to get Major League hitters out for real.

Throwing live batting practice was the third step of a process that began with a long-toss program to build up arm strength and then graduated to throwing off a mound in the bullpen. This was his first batting practice session of the spring throwing to live hitters.

"I thought everything went pretty well today," Webb said. "I was more in the strike zone. ... I figured once we got hitters in there, that would straighten me out. I felt good. I have been a little inconsistent in the 'pen, but I was a little better today. It wasn't the best I've thrown, but it wasn't the worst either."

The plan now is for a long-toss session on Thursday, light throwing on Friday and another live batting practice session on Saturday. Webb casually mentioned that he might be ready for a real game after a couple more live batting practice sessions, but nothing has been set in concrete.

The Rangers refuse to speculate beyond the next step. They know Webb won't be ready for the start of the season, but aren't circling any dates on the calendar in April or May.

"We're going to go at whatever pace we need to go so when Brandon is back, he'll be ready to pitch," Washington said. "He's still building up. It's going to be a process, so we're going to wait as long as it takes."

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.