Does an ace pitcher only four years removed from winning the Cy Young Award ever have to "relearn" how to pitch?
Brandon Webb hates to admit it, but the Diamondbacks right-hander said that's basically the case for him this spring after missing virtually all of last season because of a nagging shoulder problem that eventually forced him to undergo surgery.
The operation wasn't considered serious; Webb simply had some fraying removed from his labrum. But since he began throwing again and now is on a set bullpen schedule pitching off the mound, it has been like a learning experience all over again.
"You wouldn't think it'd be that tough," Webb said. "I don't know about relearning to totally throw, but it kind of is."
In Webb's February 25 bullpen outing, he threw 45 pitches and said 26-38 were "pretty good ones." In his first bullpen session earlier in the month, he said only about half of his pitches were good.
"But today was by far the best day," he said after throwing. "It's starting to come out good. ... I feel like every time I'm getting somewhere. I'll eventually get to where I want to be."
Manager A.J. Hinch was encouraged by Webb's latest efforts, which included throwing out of the stretch and incorporating changeups into his session.
"He really kind of pushed toward what I would call a normal bullpen," Hinch said. "That was a great step forward for him."
The Diamondbacks will monitor Webb closely this spring and guard against taxing his arm in any way so that he will be healthy and available for the start of the season. But as it stands, everyone seems to be satisfied with the steps in his comeback, even if Webb doesn't sound completely happy yet.
"It's going to be a process," he said.
--Manager A.J. Hinch has a pretty good idea how his batting order will shake out, although he still wasn't ready to openly discuss his ideal plan other than the number 3-6 hitters. He plans to have RF Justin Upton hit third, followed by 1B Adam LaRoche, 3B Mark Reynolds, and C Miguel Montero. "I'm going to try a number of guys in the leadoff spot and in the two hole," he said.
--C Miguel Montero has joined the likes of RF Justin Upton and 3B Mark Reynolds as players the Diamondbacks are interested in signing to long-term contract extensions. Managing general partner Ken Kendrick dropped Montero's name during the team's first full workout of spring as one of the core group of players that he wouldn't mind locking up to a longer deal. "He's certainly a guy we have a lot of faith in for the future," Kendrick said, "so yeah, I think there's potential opportunity to sign him for more than just a single year."
--Bob Gebhard, the club's vice president and special assistant to general manager Josh Byrnes, suffered a mild heart attack February 24 in Tucson and underwent surgery to insert two stents after it was discovered he had blockage in an artery.
--INF Pedro Ciriaco will miss most of spring training after suffering torn ligaments in his thumb while diving back to second base on a pickoff attempt during a winter ball game a few weeks ago. Ciriaco, who is on the club's 40-man roster, hit .296 with 38 stolen bases last season for Double-A Mobile.
--President Derrick Hall said the team tried to reach out to former Diamondbacks LHP Randy Johnson about throwing out the first pitch for Arizona's home opener but was told by Johnson he couldn't make it because of a previous commitment with his family. Johnson will be in Seattle, however, to throw out the first pitch for the Mariners' home opener. At some point, Hall said, the Diamondbacks will have a "special night and tribute" to honor Johnson, and the parties have discussed Johnson eventually working for the team in some capacity.
"He's definitely interested and wants to come back to work for us," Hall said, adding that a role for Johnson might not be determined before 2011.
DIAMOND STAT: .316 -- C Miguel Montero's batting average after June 15 last season, a primary reason why he will open the season as the club's starter behind the plate. Chris Snyder, the starter the last few seasons, is coming off a series of injuries, including back surgery, and has been the subject of trade talks.
QUOTABLE: "Winning is really important to me. I'm getting to be an old guy. ... I don't have that many more years. So I want to win. The one thing I can compare me and the players with is not one of them wants to win more than I do." -- Managing general partner Ken Kendrick, after telling reporters he is willing to add to the team's payroll if it helps further push the team into contention.
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