SURPRISE, Ariz. — After having problems finding his arm slot and getting loose in the bullpen Sunday, Brandon Webb wasn’t sure how he’d fare in his second live batting practice session of the spring.
He was pleasantly surprised with the 61-pitch session.
“I thought it was pretty damn good,” Webb said.
Manager Ron Washington shared that opinion after watching Webb pitch to lefties Doug Deeds and Jose Ruiz and righty Chad Tracy. There were only a few balls hit hard in 15 at-bats.
“Much better,” Washington said. “The ball came out crisper, had late movement. They didn’t center him very well, so that’s a good thing: improvement.”
There is still no timetable for Webb to pitch in a game, although he acknowledged that he wouldn’t be ready by Opening Day. The plan for Webb is to pitch another live batting practice session in four days, then maybe advance to a simulated game.
Webb, who has made only one outing since his 22-win 2008 season due to shoulder problems, said he has been told that he will break camp with the Rangers, work out with the club and do rehab stints in the minors instead of staying in Surprise for extended spring training. He declined to estimate when he would be ready to pitch for the Rangers, joking that he didn’t want to say anything he would be held to.
“It’s definitely when. It’s not if,” Washington said. “He’s healthy. We’ve just got to get his arm strength up and get him to feeling good about his mechanics and keep him facing hitters. But it’s going to be when, not if.”
Washington and Webb were especially encouraged by the right-hander’s sinker Sunday, a pitch Deeds muttered was “nasty” after striking out. Webb said his success with the sinker was evidence that he was able to get full extension with his arm, a significant sign of progress.
“Oh, yeah, it had some bite to it,” Washington said. “The stronger he gets with his arm and the more he starts trusting it, that sinker’s gonna be heavy.”
The Rangers did not use a radar gun during either of Webb’s batting practice sessions because they don’t want him to worry about velocity at this point. The concern is that he’d try to throw harder and risk re-injuring his shoulder.
Webb estimated that his fastball was “85 maybe, hopefully” on Sunday. He’d be pleased if he could add a few miles per hour.
“My velocity is not the game, not my game at all,” Webb said. “Movement is all it is.”
Added Washington: “If he finds that arm slot with some consistency, the velocity will pick up. Will it be back to 93-94? I don’t know, but I tell you what, if it continues to get better he can get hitters out. And that’s all I care about.”