This is when things get a little interesting as the Rangers try to fill these final spots. For the purposes of this assignment, we'll put Brandon Webb in the No. 4 spot (he could end up No. 3 depending on how it all shakes out). But we do know that if he can show he's healthy and ready this spring, he'll be in the rotation. Webb is someone we'll be keeping a close eye on for the next six weeks.
We'll get into Derek Holland and the other candidates for these back-end spots tomorrow.
Today's position: No. 4 starter
Brandon Webb comes to spring with plenty of questions. Webb is attempting to come back following shoulder surgery in 2009. That surgery (shoulder debrivement, which cleans out loose debris and inflamed tissue) was performed by Rangers physician Dr. Keith Meister, so the club is quite familiar with Webb's physical situation. The pitcher, who won the Cy Young Award in 2006 and made the All-Star team in 2007 and 2008, said he feels good and will be ready for spring training.
The Rangers, though, don't want to put any pressure on him. They want him to work with pitching coach Mike Maddux on his delivery and get to where he feels good. If that means he's effective leading into Opening Day and can be on the roster, that's a bonus. But they are OK if he ends up needing more time, makes steady progress and is ready to help the club at some point soon after the season starts.
Webb has great stuff, including a devastating sinker and solid changeup, but don't expect to see it as soon as he takes a mound in a few weeks. Just watch if he gets stronger as spring training goes along and if the shoulder feels good. Remember: This is a guy who has pitched four innings the last two seasons. He's going to need some time.
It's a good contract, though. Webb gets $3 million guaranteed, but could make $5 million more in incentives (the details of his contract are here). In other words, it's not nearly as much as the club guaranteed Rich Harden, so I like taking the risk here. If Webb shows he's healthy and effective, he's got the inside track to a rotation spot.
Webb pitched in the Instructional League for Arizona at the end of 2010 and said he felt more comfortable.
"My velocity got better, my stuff got better," Webb said last month. "I feel good about where I'm at."
Webb said he's not a pitcher who's had success because he can blow fastballs by anybody. He's at his best when his location is on and the sinker and changeup help induce ground balls. That's certainly something that could come in handy at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
BTW, check out Webb's comments from the day he signed in January here.
Do you think Webb will be in the rotation the first week of the season? When do you think he'll be in position to help the club?