"Yeah, no doubt," Webb said when asked if he could see himself returning to the mound this season. "For some reason, I think something turned on and something allowed me to get out there and really get after it and without any pain. I've turned the corner, and I feel like I'm moving in the right direction and I see the light."
Webb's 2009 season was derailed by a right shoulder injury suffered during his Opening Day start. After a thwarted comeback, he had debridement surgery.
The 31-year-old right-hander has tossed "three or four" bullpen sessions this season, the most recent one occurring on Saturday, in which Webb tossed "around 60 to 65 pitches." Webb has continually added something new to each session as he builds back strength. He was able to toss off the mound from 55 feet.
"[Saturday] was again good," Webb said."The catcher was down so that was something that was new. I feel like I'm getting stuff done every time, moving forward, not having problems. I went through the windup, which I wasn't doing. I was kind of stepping into it and throwing off the mound [before Saturday]. [Saturday], or more than half the time, I went through the total windup and had the catcher down."
Webb feels good enough to where he thinks he will be able to step back to the full distance and throw either in the next bullpen session, which will occur on Tuesday or Wednesday in St. Louis, or the following one. In those, he and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, Jr. will determine whether he is capable of facing hitters.
"As far as intensity, it's pretty much on me," Webb said. "He'll be able to tell once we get the catcher back full distance hopefully the next time, he'll be able to tell, after one or two of those. He'll be able to say 'Hey, you're looking good, we're ready to see some hitters in there."
Webb has started to throw his breaking ball and fastball with consistency, including a four-seam fastball which he doesn't use much in games.
"Mostly four-seam fastballs, which is good, which I don't do any in the game hardly at all," Webb said. "Whenever I throw [the breaking ball] here and there on flat ground here and there, it's totally fine. I've been spinning some curveballs on flat ground and changeups and once I get back to full distance, that will be the next step, throwing a couple breaking balls and stuff."
Having Webb back in the mix will be good for a pitching staff that has suddenly become walk prone, having issued 24 free passes over the past three games heading into Sunday's finale with Tampa Bay. Webb has issued just 125 walks in 357 innings over his six-year career and averaged 17.5 wins between 2005-08, including 22 in his last full season (2008).
"The most frustrating part is not being able to compete," Webb said. "That's what I'm looking forward to doing again. I think it's why we all play, is the competition part of the game. That's what makes it fun, to get out there and throw to hitters in some kind of competitive atmosphere. It's going to be exciting and hopefully, soon, I can be out there and help the team."