PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Brandon Webb took a step forward in his long journey back from shoulder surgery by going seven innings in an Arizona Rookie League game on Tuesday, his longest outing since 2008.
The former NL Cy Young winner, now under contract with the Texas Rangers, threw 79 pitches, 55 strikes, against the San Diego rookie team. He allowed four runs, only one earned, on six hits, striking out five, walking none and hitting two batters.
"Today I felt like I was able to locate more," he said. "The other times I was just throwing it down the middle, trying to get velocity and not really worrying about where it went and stuff like that. Today it was more about pitch-ability."
Webb hit 84 mph on the radar gun. The sinker ball specialist said he threw 88 mph in his prime and hit 86 two outings earlier.
Webb has not pitched in a major league game since taking the mound for the Arizona Diamondbacks on opening day of the 2009 season. He said he isn't sure what his next move will be, whether it's an outing with a higher-level minor league team or a bullpen session in Texas.
"It's probably some of the best stuff I've had, I think," the right-hander said afterward. "My curve ball has been kind of loopy. For the most part it was pretty good today. It was just a matter of getting the hand speed out in front instead of kind of babying it in there or whatever."
The three unearned runs followed the first of Webb's two throwing errors to first. He said it was a good day, "other than throwing to the bases, which I can't do — obviously."
Webb struck out two batters to end innings with runners in scoring position.
"Even though it doesn't really matter, it will matter sometime and you've got to put yourself in those situations," he said, "where you put pressure on yourself where 'Hey, I do need a strikeout here' and you try to get one."
Webb had an 87-62 record in seven seasons with Arizona. From 2006 through 2008 he was 56-25, capped by a 22-7 mark in 2008. He was a workhorse, throwing at least 208 innings for five consecutive seasons with a high of 236 1-3 in 2007.
But he lasted just four innings on opening day in 2009 and eventually underwent shoulder surgery. The Diamondbacks picked up their $8.5 million option for 2010, gambling that their former ace would be able to come back. But he never did and signed a $3 million free agent contract with Texas in the offseason.
He said that on good days, he feels he will be back; on bad days, it's tough.
"I have more good than bad now, it seems like," Webb said. "We're making progress it seems like every day, so that's the motivation."
The 31-year-old explained his determination.
"Because I still enjoy it," he said. "It's fun going out here and competing. That's the whole thing, being able to get back there and competing, because I was good and I miss that. I really just want to get back there and do it. We've got a pretty good team, so I want to be a part of that and help in any way I can."