This could be the week we find out where Ashland’s Brandon Webb will try to revive his pitching career in the major leagues.

Webb is on the wish-list of several teams — and that list seems to be growing daily — although the pitching-deep Cincinnati Reds are apparently not one of them. (Pitching-deep Reds: Now there’s a compound adjective I’d never thought would be used).

Last weekend the Cubs and Rockies began expressing interest in the former National League Cy Young Award winner. The Cubs were said to be “seriously considering” Webb, a free agent right-hander who is coming off shoulder surgery, while The Denver Post reports the Rockies have considerable interest in Webb, too. The Rockies know Webb well since he was in the National West while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks since 2003.

The increased interest is good news for Webb, who has not pitched in the majors since Opening Day 2009 when he began feeling shoulder discomfort that led to two years on the shelf. However, because of that unknown factor that comes with any player bouncing back from surgery, any deal Webb signs would likely be incentive-laden.

The source on Fanhouse said the Cubs have been in talks with Webb's agent, Jonathan Maurer. The Cubs have Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster for their 2011 rotation but not much for sure beyond that.

The Pirates, Twins, Rangers and Nationals are others who have expressed some interest in Webb. The Rangers may be waiting to see what happens with Cliff Lee. Either the Rangers or (more likely) the Yankees are expected to sign him this week. When that decision is made, the free agent market for pitchers should start to move.

The Reds never made a pitch for Webb, despite his proximity to home, because starting pitching appears to be a strength (Of course, can you really ever have enough starting pitching?).

Webb is considered a high-risk gamble although the shoulder appears healthy again. He worked two instructional games last fall and, while the velocity wasn’t where Webb wanted it to be, he threw pain-free for the first time in nearly two years. Webb is preparing at a normal pace and could make 30-plus starts in 2011, Maurer said. If that indeed happens then somebody is getting a steal.

The 31-year-old Webb had surgery on Aug. 3, 2009. The rehabilitation process normally takes nine to 12 months for full recovery, which should put Webb on pace for full-go in the spring. However, he will be monitored carefully by whoever signs him, probably with a strict pitch count.

Prior to the injury, Webb was one of the most dominant and durable pitchers in baseball for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was 56-25 with a 3.13 earned run average from 2006 to 2008 when he won the Cy Young (’06) and finished runner-up the next two seasons. Webb was also an innings-eater with 200-plus innings from 2004-2008.

His ratio of 0.63 home runs allowed per nine innings is best of any active pitcher with 1,200 career innings. Webb’s heavy sinker was regarded as one of the pitches in baseball.

Webb has an 87-62 career record with 1,065 strikeouts and a career ERA of 3.27. The Diamondbacks declined to match Webb an offer despite the pitcher saying that’s where he’d like to stay.

David Payne, the owner of Ashland Sporting Goods and a huge Webb fan, doesn’t anticipate the Diamondbacks making any kind of second offer to Webb. He is selling all his Arizona Diamondback gear at 50 percent off.

Whoever signs Webb will be an adoptive team for Ashland. The native son has never forgotten his roots here and remains as humble today as he was while making the journey to the major leagues.

That’s why there’s a lot of interest locally on where Webb will land. The guess here is that it’s going to happen soon.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

 

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