PHOENIX -- For a while there, Bryan Price thought Brandon Webb might just be able to pull off a comeback and return to the big leagues.
The Reds' pitching coach, who worked with Webb when he was in a similar capacity with the D-backs from 2006-09, had worked with Webb for over two months trying to find a way to return the former National League Cy Young Award winner to the mound for the first time since Opening Day 2009.
"His throwing, his long toss, his accuracy, his arm strength, his arm speed were increasing and he still had that good natural action on his sinker," Price said. "I was optimistic barring any setbacks that he could get back on the mound and we could really evaluate what he had left in the tank. Unfortunately, we just fell a little short there."
After pain in his shoulder returned, Webb announced Monday that he had decided to retire from baseball.
Price and Webb reconnected this November when Price bumped into Webb at a restaurant. It made Price think back to something he saw last summer.
"What really hit me sideways was we were playing the Diamondbacks this past season late in the summer, and I saw on the scoreboard an advertisement for the alumni game they were having and one of the names up there was Brandon Webb," Price said. "That hit me funny, because you usually think those guys are retired players."
Webb and Price got to talking in November and decided to work together on Webb's latest comeback attempt.
Price had seen Webb at his best. The right-hander won the NL Cy Young Award in 2006 and finished second in the voting in '07 and '08.
"His sinker was second to none," Price said. "There were none that were better. That's not me being biased, that's just reality. You could practically talk to anybody in baseball, and they would probably agree that from the time he came on the scene in 2003 until the end of the 2008 season, I would gladly argue anyone who says there was a better sinker out there.
"He could also get the strikeout when he needed to and a lot of that was on his curveball and changeup. The other part of him that I admired was that he wanted to stay in games, but he was smart enough to know if he should stay in a game. He was always honest with us when he was tired, but if he wasn't tired, he wanted to stay in the game."
On Opening Day 2009, he injured his shoulder and never was able to pitch in a big league game again despite two surgeries and several comeback attempts.
Each time there would be optimism about his ability to return to action, only to have the shoulder pain crop up when he tried to up the intensity and get back on the mound.
Price tried a number of different ways to get Webb's shoulder loose -- including having him play some tennis -- but in the end, nothing worked.
"I was really happy to have the chance to work with him," Price said. "He made some good strides. The willingness was there, he put in the work, but his body just wasn't up to the challenge. I really admired him for giving it another chance."