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Brandon Webb has breakthrough session

2/27/2011

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Brandon Webb doesn't know if he'll make it all the way back for the start of the season, but after getting back on the mound for the first time in nearly two weeks Sunday -- yet another step in the recovery process from a shoulder injury he's dealt with for two years -- Webb said he can finally see the finish line.

"It's reachable," the 2006 Cy Young Award winner said.

Asked if Sunday's 10-minute, 26- to 28-pitch session that included some expected wildness was a breakthrough, Webb smiled and said, "I think so. I think it was a good day. It's definitely a step in the right direction."

It's been a frustrating two seasons as Webb's attempted to return from a shoulder injury that required surgery in August 2009. He hasn't pitched in a big-league game since Opening Day 2009. He tried to come back too quickly last season and was constantly hit with setbacks, which is why Sunday's session with no pain or glitches was so encouraging for him.

"It was good. Zero issues. Felt really good," Webb said. "Threw some changeups. Felt fine, didn't want to stop so that was good."

His enthusiasm to get back quickly is understandable, but the club is somewhat tempering it by taking a very cautious approach. Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said if all goes well that Webb will pitch off a mound every other day and sprinkle in more sessions of long toss in between, which is what Webb had been limited to over the last 10 days or so. Maddux stressed that they want Webb to have to make only one return. He suffered multiple setbacks last season trying to come back.

Webb said he liked the movement on his pitches and felt his velocity was good, although a radar gun was not being used. He said location was his only issue and that's a matter of repetition on the mound.

"I felt like it was pretty good. It's tough to tell, no radar gun, no hitter in there," Webb said. "It's definitely different when those things come into play. Adrenaline comes into play a little bit more. I don't see it being an issue really. I think it's going to be there."

Webb, who said he expects to pitch in a spring-training game at some point, threw in front of one person with particular interest, team president Nolan Ryan. Ryan echoed the cautious approach and staying away from a pre-determined return date. Ryan spoke to Webb before his mound session.

"I don't think you put a timeframe on it because you want to do what's in the best interest for him and the club and so you monitor it and make a decision at some point in time," Ryan said. 'It also depends on how the other pitchers are doing. Like a conversation I had with him earlier today, as long as you feel like each time out you're making progress, that's what you look for and I think that's the way we should gauge it with him."

For Webb, Sunday was a definite day of progress.