D-backs' Webb hoping for 6 to 8 starts

PHOENIX -- Brandon Webb says something clicked and he has finally found his pitching form. The former NL Cy Young winner says he hopes to make six to eight starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season.

That would put him back with the team in late August.

"Its been fun to come and throw and be almost a normal player," he said.

Webb said he was so frustrated with his lack of progress in his recovery from shoulder surgery that he nearly shut it down for the season. But during a session on the mound in Boston in mid-June, he suddenly felt good. Now the right-hander is throwing off the mound at least three times a week, including "heavy" sessions when he throws 60 to 65 pitches. He threw a "light" session of 20 to 25 pitches on Saturday.

He never threw a pitch for manager A.J. Hinch, who was fired Thursday night. Webb hasn't appeared in a game since the opener last season, when Bob Melvin was manager.

But he said he finally has seen the light that represents his return to the mound.

Webb said he had thrown another miserable session in Boston and was sitting talking to pitching coach Mel Stottlemeyer Jr., who asked if he wanted to shut it down or throw a little more.

"I was a half-second from saying, 'Yeah, let's just shut it down,'" Webb said, "but I think, 'Yeah, let's throw a little bit more.' That was it."

In every outing since then, "I've gotten better at something," he said.

The Diamondbacks had gambled that Webb would recover quicker when last November they picked up the $8.5 million option for the final year of his contract.

But Webb felt awful in spring training and never got better. He even changed his arm slot to try to get back to the form that led him to a 22-9 record and a 3.30 ERA in 2008. Until the injury, he had been one of the game's most durable pitchers, with at least 208 innings pitched each season from 2004 through 2008. His career record is 87-62 in six major league seasons, not counting his season-opening meltdown in 2009.

Smiling and optimistic as he talked to reporters outside his locker, he said his trademark sinker ball, one of the best in baseball, is back.

"It's totally the same, I think," Webb said. "It's been good. When I stay behind the ball and get on top, it's definitely there."

The next step will be to have someone stand in as a batter while he throws. If all goes well, he would then pitch to live hitters.

"Everything is moving along in the right direction," Webb said.

That's only been the case since that miracle at Fenway Park.

Divine intervention, perhaps?

"That's what we're going with," Webb said. "We've been riding that for about three weeks, so let's keep it going."