SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Philip Webb, 58, uses a left-handed catcher's glove to catch his son. Even though he is left-handed, he used to wear a right-hander's glove that Brandon Webb got when he was 11 years old. But Brandon had Rawlings fix his dad up with a left-handed glove just a few years ago. "I guarantee you he liked the old glove better," the younger Webb said. "It takes a long time to break in a new glove."
The father still catches the son after all these years, and he did this winter back home in Kentucky. Brandon Webb started his offseason throwing program on Dec. 15, and it has gone well every step of the way. Now, he is in Rangers camp ready to go through the same routine as all other pitchers after missing the past two seasons with a right shoulder injury that required surgery. "I'm excited," Webb said Wednesday morning as pitchers and catchers officially reported to Spring Training. "I'm excited just to be back on the field, excited to be with the rest of the team. It's a new team, fresh start ... being healthy and doing what everybody else does, being a normal player ... it's great." Webb was signed by the Rangers to a one-year contract in the offseason and he said expects to be ready to go on Opening Day. "That's for sure the goal," Webb said. "I want to be ready and I definitely feel that's realistic. I'm hoping things go great and I'm expecting things to go great." Webb was the National League Cy Young Award winner with the D-backs in 2006 and a 22-game winner in '08. But he hasn't pitched in a Major League game since April 6, 2009, when he was Arizona's Opening Day starter against Colorado. Webb has had shoulder problems ever since then, and finally had surgery on Aug. 3, 2009. He didn't face hitters again until instructional league last September, when he made three appearances in the D-backs' camp. But this offseason has been close to his old routine, and he threw off the mound three times to his father back home in Ashland, Ky. "It went really good," Webb said. "The first one was OK. I said, 'OK, not bad.' The second one, I was super-excited after that one. I thought, 'Not only am I going to be able to go back out there, but I can go out there and be pretty good.' The third one was pretty good, just not as good as the second one." Rangers pitchers normally begin Spring Training by throwing live batting practice to their own hitters. Webb hasn't mapped out a plan with pitching coach Mike Maddux, but doesn't expect any limitations. He just wants to use caution. The Rangers don't need a rush job, because Webb represents their best hope of plugging the hole in the rotation that was left when Cliff Lee signed with Philadelphia. The club has plenty of candidates for its rotation, but none with Webb's history of success at the big league level. Webb said he pushed too hard last spring with the D-backs and it cost him a second missed season. He does not want to make the same mistake this year. That's something he spoke to assistant general manager Thad Levine and head trainer Jamie Reed about when he arrived in camp. "They are all about finishing the year," Webb said. "We don't want to rush and have setbacks like last year. I pushed too hard and too quick to get back on the mound and get into Spring Training like the other guys. It didn't work out. "I didn't give it enough time. It's usually a year after the surgery and we were doing it on a six-month program. It didn't work out." One good sign came from his catcher. Webb was home last August for a funeral and threw off the mound to his father. It didn't go very well. But the winter throwing sessions were different, according to his personal catcher. "Totally different," the right-hander said. "[My dad] could tell there was a huge difference. The throwing has been great and my arm feels good." Never argue with a left-handed catcher, especially one who can use a right-handers's glove to catch a Major League pitcher throwing 90-plus mph and what was once the best sinker in the game.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.