After several dodges when asked about a timetable for a return to action, Brandon Webb was finally honest with himself and the rest of us on Sunday.
He admitted that there's no chance he'll be on the roster come Opening Day and that he will need more work, including a minor league rehab assignment, before stepping back onto a big league mound. This isn't shocking news, not by a long shot, and it shouldn't be seen as a reason to doubt the possibility of Webb contributing something to the Rangers this season.
Quite the contrary, actually. Webb had a 61-pitch batting practice session on Sunday and everyone who saw it believed it represented a huge improvement. The outing went so well that Ron Washington was willing to change Webb's status message.
"Oh it's when, definitely when, not if," Washington said. "He's healthy, and we've just got to get his arm strength up and get him feeling good about his mechanics and all of this -- keep him facing hitters. But it's going to be when, not if."
That news takes some heat off of Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland and the other guys vying for the spots in the rotation after C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. While the Rangers will obviously need some of them to step up and do a good job, the fact that Webb's return has moved from hope to anticipation means that the team can breathe a little easier about the bumps in the road.
Expecting the Webb that won a Cy Young would be foolish, but Sunday's work renewed the belief that he can be a real contributor to the team. If that pans out, the Rangers will be a lot closer to being the team they'll need to be to return to the playoffs in 2011. If it doesn't, they will need to make other moves but even that is a blessing in disguise.
The uncertainty around Webb is something that needs to be cleared up so the team can take other steps. Whether the gamble turns out to be a winner or a loser, we came closer to finding out on Sunday and that's a positive all the way around.