Webb joins Rangers with high hopes
Former Cy Young winner, Rhodes officially come aboard
ARLINGTON -- Despite missing almost two complete seasons with shoulder problems, right-handed pitcher Brandon Webb said he will be ready to go with the rest of the Rangers' staff when Spring Training opens up on Feb. 17 in Surprise, Ariz."With any pitcher, it takes a few weeks to get into the swing of things," Webb said. "But I feel I should be right there. I expect to be able to jump right in and throw bullpen or live [batting practice], whatever they want me to do." The Rangers just want Webb to be healthy and at full strength. If he is that, they'll take their chances with whatever they get from him. Webb officially joined the Rangers on Monday when both he and reliever Arthur Rhodes were formally introduced at a news conference at the Ballpark in Arlington. Webb attended the event with his agent, Jonathan Mauer, and Rhodes spoke by phone from his home outside of Baltimore.
Webb's health was the No. 1 topic of discussion. He was the National League Cy Young Award winner in 2006 and a 22-game winner for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008 but hasn't pitched since Opening Day 2009 because of his injured right shoulder.Webb, one of the top sinkerball pitchers in the game, had surgery on Aug. 3, 2009, and his only mound work since came during three Instructional League outings at the end of this past season for the D-backs in Arizona. He had two one-inning outings and one two-inning outing. His velocity was around 80-85 mph -- well under his best -- but that was only just the beginning. "I feel good where I'm at," Webb said. "I feel good about what I did in Instructional League, getting the little work that I did. I felt comfortable on the mound and each time my velocity got better and my stuff got better. I feel I'll be ready for Spring Training for sure." The Rangers agreed to a one-year contract with Webb worth $3 million with another $5 million in incentives. Rhodes agreed to a one-year deal worth $3.9 million plus a vesting option for 2012 at $4 million. Rhodes' option vests at 62 appearances as long as he's not on the disabled list at the end of the season. Rhodes joins Darren Oliver in giving the Rangers two veteran left-handers in the bullpen. Rhodes is a 19-year Major League veteran who has pitched in 849 Major League games, 34th all-time and the third most among active left-handed relievers. "Over the last couple of years we've spent time building the depth of our young players in the system," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "One thing we're proud of is being able to select the right mix of veterans who not only can help us win ballgames but also set the right tone and bring the right pedigree of success. We feel Arthur and Brandon both fit that profile. We obviously feel they are poised to have big years for us." Webb joins a rotation that includes left-hander C.J. Wilson and right-handers Tommy Hunter and Colby Lewis. Those three were in the Rangers' playoff rotation and left-hander Derek Holland ended the season as the fifth starter. They will get competition from left-handers Michael Kirkman and Matt Harrison and right-hander Eric Hurley, who has also missed two seasons because of shoulder surgery but has been throwing the ball well in the offseason. Right-hander Scott Feldman, a 17-game winner in 2009, is coming off knee surgery and is not expected to be ready for Spring Training but could be an option at some point. The Rangers also remain serious about giving both closer Neftali Feliz and right-handed setup reliever Alexi Ogando a chance to start in Spring Training. The Rangers may add a veteran pitcher or two on a Minor League contract to provide depth but Daniels said the club is comfortable with what they have right now. They also feel comfortable with what they are getting with Webb. His surgery was performed by Keith Meister, the Rangers' team physician. It was a "cleanup" surgery, rather than one to repair a torn rotator cuff, and Meister told the Rangers that a full recovery is expected. Meister also told Webb that it would take about a year of recovery, and that is pretty much what happened. Webb started throwing in August, threw simulated games in September and was able to get some mound time in Instructional League. "I expect him to have an impact," Daniels said. "It might be a case where he gets better as the season goes along. We'll just wait before we put expectations on him. We have reason to believe he'll bounce back, but we'll see." From 2004-08, Webb started 169 games, tied with Greg Maddux for the most starts in that five-year period for any Major League pitcher. He was second behind Johan Santana with 1,135 innings pitched and ranked fifth among Major League pitchers in number of pitches thrown. "Obviously, I'd like to throw 230 innings like I normally do," Webb said. "Is that possible? I don't know. I'm going to go out and take the ball every time I can. I don't like to give up the ball. If it's 170-180 innings, I'll take whatever I can get. I just want to compete." Rhodes, 41, is coming off one of his best seasons, going 4-4 with a 2.29 ERA in 69 games for the Reds while striking out 50 in 55 innings pitched. Opponents hit .196 off him, .215 by left-handers and just .182 by right-handed hitters. He was selected to the All-Star Game for the first time in his career. Since missing all of 2007 because of Tommy John surgery, Rhodes is 9-6 with a 2.32 ERA and an opponent's batting average of .204 over the past three seasons, all with the Reds. He had some issues with inflammation in his left foot this past season but didn't let it bother him. "It didn't limit me," Rhodes said. "It bothered me on some days and on some days it would go away. But I kept pitching. If it was hurting, I still went out there and pitched. Right now, it's feeling good and I'm ready to go." Rhodes is a native Texan. He was born in Waco and pitched at LaVega High. "It feels great being a Ranger," Rhodes said. "Being a native Texan, it's going to be good pitching at home in front of family. There were a lot of other teams me and my agent talked to, but the Texas Rangers were interested, so I decided to play in my home state."
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.