ARLINGTON, Texas -- It appears the Brandon Webb experiment is over for 2011.
The Rangers signed the former Cy Young Award winner to a one-year deal worth $3 million guaranteed and another $5 million in incentives. But the 32-year-old's latest MRI showed changes in his rotator cuff and he's going through his options. One of those is surgery. The news means he probably won't pitch again in 2011.
Webb really wasn't getting close to joining the Rangers' rotation before this latest setback. It seemed as if with every start, the big question was his velocity. It hovered around 84 mph, though he did manage to get it up a few clicks to 86 mph or so in one outing. The bottom line is that he wasn't throwing the ball hard enough, consistently enough to even be considered for a promotion. As good as Webb's sinker was when he was on, he could have gotten by with solid command at maybe 88 mph, but the command was also inconsistent during his rehab starts.
Webb worked hard to return, but in the end the shoulder and arm just weren't going to allow it. He wondered just last month if he'd ever find the velocity and be able to consisently get hitters out. He even admitted he didn't know whether he'd return to a big league mound as recently as Saturday.
Last month, when he was working with mechanical issues and trying to find a little more gusto on his fastball, I asked Webb about the possibility of falling short in his comeback attempt and whether he thought about not pitching again on a major league mound. (Read the complete entry here.)
"Yeah, I think about it," Webb said in mid June. "I think about when is this going to be it and I’m going to say, ‘Hey, I’m done.’ I haven’t come to that point yet. But I’ve thought about that what if. We're already halfway through this year and it's been 2 1/2 years now. I don't want to give up on it. I'm not ready to do that. I'll keep working."
Webb went on to say that he wasn't content to toil in the minors for a while.
"That’s the only place I want to pitch," Webb said of the majors. "I’m not trying to pitch in Double- or Triple-A. If I see that I can’t get it done, than I can’t get it done. That will be a huge, deciding factor."
So Webb has some decisions to make. It means the Rangers rolled the dice that Webb would return and it didn't work. It's easy to say that they wasted that money, but those are the kinds of chances you have to take as an organization. This was a guy who won the Cy Young in 2006, and won 18 games in 2007 and a career-high 22 in 2008. If he could have found some of that magic, it could have been a nice second-half boost for this team. In the end, that didn't happen. That's the risk you take when you invest in someone coming off an injury. You never fully know if they'll get healthy in time to help you. But I still argue you have to take those risks.
As soon as Webb makes a decision and discusses it with the media, we'll let you know.