It was a milestone of sorts for injured Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb. This particular milestone had little to do with his on field results or lack thereof.
Webb had requested a meeting with the Arizona Diamondbacks front office to discuss his future and in particular the remaining week of the 2010 season.
This saga began on April 6, 2009. It was Opening Day at Chase Field and Brandon Webb was on the mound for the home team. He was uncharacteristically struggling this day lasting just four innings giving up six runs.
He would leave that game complaining of shoulder pain. Over the next several months Webb would go through several treatments in an attempt to return to the mound.
Finally Webb and the team’s medical staff determined surgery was needed ending Webb’s season and possibly his tenure with the Diamondbacks. Arizona held an option on Webb for the 2010 season.
By the option deadline Webb was still unable to throw. Given recommendations by the medical staff the Diamondbacks picked up the $8.5 million option with hopes that Webb would be available by the time the season started.
Going into Spring Training it looked as though Webb could be ready to pitch in early April. As he began throwing Webb suffered minor setback after minor setback.
These ranged from stiffness of the joint to dead arm to mechanical issues. With each new setback the timetable was moved from April to May to June and so forth.
It has become a long standing joke when reporters ask the manager about Webb’s availability. By early August it became a real possibility that Webb would not pitch this season.
Webb was determined to see game action in 2010. Over the past month he has been much more visible throwing bullpen sessions and simulated games.
He has reset his goal to be a reliever for this season just to be able to see some game action this year. With the end of the season fast approaching Webb called a meeting with team officials to petition them to allow him to get into a game during this last road trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The meeting participants included Webb and newly appointed General Manager Kevin Towers. Also present were interim manager Kirk Gibson, former interim GM Jerry Dipoto, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., and members of the training staff.
Webb stated his case saying that although he was not in mid-season form he was still a better option than many of the relievers currently in the bullpen. That could not be debated.
That statement was accurate but was more a result of bad relievers than an indication of Webb’s health. There was more than just the status of Webb’s arm that needed to be taken into consideration.
Webb has missed nearly two full years. While he has been working to get back, the fact remains that he is not prepared to face major league hitters. He has been focusing solely on building arm strength and proper mechanics.
Those are both extremely important but there are other areas that Webb needs to prepare to be game ready. There is fielding his position and covering the bases both of which are needed to be successful.
Attempting to do all of these without the proper foundation and practice would be risky to both the Diamondbacks and Webb himself which could set him back months in his rehabilitation.
To be successful Webb needs a more controlled environment to return. The Instructional League would offer that. In Instructional League teams can set the situation and control all of the variables starting and stopping an inning as needed.
There are other factors that need to be considered as well. Webb is currently on the 60-day disabled list. In order for him to be activated, a spot must be cleared on the 40-man roster meaning the Diamondbacks must release someone with just a week remaining on the season.
With Webb becoming a free agent after the season that could mean giving up a roster spot currently occupied with someone would be part of the team’s longer term plans.
There are no guarantees that Webb will return to Arizona next season. Both Webb and the team expressed interest in bringing the right-hander back but only if it makes sense economically to each party.
In a sense, if the Diamondbacks allowed Webb to pitch in the major leagues this season they are basically giving him an opportunity to tryout for the other 29 clubs heading into the off-season.
After discussing the situation with all parties, it was determined Webb would be best served pitching in Instructional League games in Tucson. His first game will be Wednesday September 29.
If things go well he will pitch again on Saturday and again next week. The Diamondbacks will announce game times and open the Instructional League games to the public which will surely include scouts from other teams.
Diamondbacks GM Towers will be in attendance as well. At the conclusion of these games both parties will sit down again and gauge interest in bringing the pitcher back next season.
This may become the most hyped Instructional League in Diamondbacks history. Hopefully it leads to something that will make the team better in 2011 and beyond.