MILWAUKEE -- Brewers scouts were high on Oklahoma prep pitcher Braden Webb in the spring of 2014, and why wouldn't they be? Webb opened his senior season with consecutive no-hitters, and as he took the mound for his third start, there was broad consensus that he would be an early-round Draft pick. That all went away when Webb felt the pop in his elbow.
Two years later, after Tommy John surgery, rehab and a season at the University of South Carolina, Webb is back on track. The Brewers drafted him in the third round on Friday, and Webb said he would sign just as soon as the Gamecocks finish their run in the NCAA postseason. South Carolina faces Oklahoma on Saturday for the start of a Super Regional.
Two years ago, after that pop, Webb's professional future was in limbo. At first, doctors thought it was simply scar tissue from tendinitis breaking free in the elbow. He iced and rehabbed in an effort to make his next start against a chief rival, but literally felt sick the day of the game. He went for an MRI, which revealed a torn ligament. He would need surgery, and faced a yearlong rehabilitation.
What went through his mind?
"I knew it was going to affect my Draft status, from being a top prospect to not being a prospect at all," he said. "I knew that teams were going to be iffy on me coming back. I knew the doctors were going to be iffy on me coming back, because they all told me there was a possibility I might never throw again.
"I just wanted to prove everybody wrong. I prayed a lot about it and went at it as if I was going to do whatever it takes to get back into the game of baseball."
The Indians made him a 38th-round Draft pick last year, but he went to South Carolina to drive his stock back up to the early rounds. He went 10-5 with a 3.24 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 94 1/3 innings as a freshman and was Draft-eligible because he recently turned 21.
Webb gathered with family and friends on Thursday night, hoping to hear his name on Day 1 of the Draft. It was never called, so he reported to practice on Friday and was told by his coaches to keep his phone in his pocket, just in case.
Brewers area scout Steve Smith called just after 1 p.m. ET.
"I had to have one of my teammates, Clarke Schmidt, hold my phone, because my hands were shaking so bad," Webb said.
Teammates huddled while Schmidt navigated to MLB.com's Draft Tracker. Webb paced around the mound as the rest of the group watched his name pop up.
After a brief celebration, it was back to pitcher's fielding practice. Webb was ordered to go first.
"I actually did not know that the Brewers were on me," he said. "It came as a shock to me. But I absolutely love it. I think the thing I'm most excited about is sliding down the slide."
The slide, of course, belongs to the Brewers' mascot, Bernie, who celebrates home runs by Milwaukee hitters by sliding to a platform below.
"That's actually the thing I'm most looking forward to," Webb said with a laugh. "Pitching in the big leagues is a close second."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.