So often in baseball, we hear or read about “the feel” of the game. There are different ways that a baseball player has that feel. In the case of right-handed pitcher Brandon Webb, it’s all about re-gaining the feel he had back in 2008 -- his last full season of pitching in the major leagues before shoulder surgery sidelined him up to present day. How close is he?
“We’re three feet away. The ball is coming out of his hand a lot better than when he first got here,” said Keith Comstock, Rangers rehab pitching coordinator. “He is really starting to develop some arm speed through that zone. It’s the last three feet of the ball I want to see that late life, and it’s that finish that we are really working on right now for him to understand that he’s still got a little protection going on where he felt the pain the last time that he was pitching. It’s a mental breakthrough that he has really put the gas pedal to that he wants to get through here.”
The Rangers' training facility in Surprise, Ariz., is Comstock’s year-round office. Derek Holland and Scott Feldman are among those who credit “Commie” for improving or rehabbing their pitching mechanics and psyche. Webb continues to work with him, and there’s more to it than just getting on the mound.
Comstock has a specialized drill that has helped get Webb over that mental obstacle. He went all Yoda-like on Webb in making him believe in his abilities.
“We closed his eyes and made him go through his delivery and made him start feeling things rather than looking for things” said Comstock, who set up a net 40 feet away from where Webb was pitching the ball. “We took the vision away from him, and he really responded to that. It’s been real good progress with him. He’s come a long way. He’s really excited about where he’s at with it.”
Why close his eyes?
“He needed to feel that he could understand that he could accelerate," Comstock said. "He didn’t have to protect himself from deceleration too early, which creates a real slow arm speed. He understood that he was feeling it more and more. Taking away that vision, I think that’s really helped him. We still need to finish the process.”
The next step in the process is an extended spring training start today in Surprise, where Webb will work five innings or throw 80 pitches.
Why has Comstock been such an asset to the Rangers and their rehabilitating pitchers?
“In 1992 when I got hurt, I had a torn labrum,” recalled Comstock, who was 10-7 with a 4.06 ERA in 144 relief appearances for four major league clubs and played in Japan. “There was really no rehab, per se. There was no throwing program. They had a semi-structure to it, but I did it improperly and never got back to the big leagues. I always felt like as a left-hander at age 37, I could have done what some of those other guys have done had I done it right. Going into that rehab thing, that’s my primary concern with these guys that they do it right. There’s not too many opportunities that are in baseball that we know of that just come around, but when you come out of a rehab, opportunity can be there for you.”
Rangers fans are intrigued as to when the opportunity will exist for Webb.