D-backs pick up 2010 option on Webb

D-backs pick up 2010 option on Webb

PHOENIX -- In the end, the D-backs felt the risk of not picking up Brandon Webb's contract option for 2010 was greater than using more than 10 percent of their payroll on a pitcher coming off shoulder surgery.

The D-backs on Friday announced they were exercising the $8.5 million option rather than pay a $2 million buyout.

"There's risk in everything," D-backs GM Josh Byrnes said. "With the last three months I think some of the risk has been reduced because the surgery went well and Webby's really responded well. I think there's a lot of reward. I mean, you're talking about one of the best pitchers in baseball, so as we made that decision, in our mind, the reward was greater than the risk."

Heading into the 2009 season it seemed that picking up the option was a fait accompli, but Webb experienced discomfort in his shoulder during his Opening Day start against the Rockies, lasted just four innings and wound up missing the rest of the season.

Webb eventually underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder on Aug. 4. The procedure was deemed a success and while Webb has not begun a throwing program, according to doctors the D-backs talked to he is making good progress.

Both Webb and the team appear confident that he will be a full participant when Spring Training opens.

"I've worked hard since Aug. 4 and everything is going really good, the strength is back in there," Webb said. "Everything has been going great."

Webb will begin throwing next Wednesday and the plan is for him to throw four days lightly before shutting it down until he goes through his normal pre-Spring Training throwing program later this winter.

"I'm pretty sure it's going to feel good," Webb said.

As Webb continued to make progress after the surgery, it became more and more evident that the D-backs would exercise the option.

"Obviously, I was hoping that they would," Webb said. "I was just waiting for the phone call. It was up in the air for a while and rightfully so, it was a big question mark for a while, but I've bounced back really well and am feeling good and I'm happy I'll be back next year."

Byrnes and assistant GM Peter Woodfork informed Webb during a meeting last month that they were all but certain to exercise the option, but wanted to wait closer to the deadline, which was five days following the conclusion of the World Series.

Webb has been a mainstay in the Arizona rotation since 2003, when he finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. After being called up in April that year, he started 28 games and made at least 33 starts every season after until the injury last season.

"I kind of pride myself on being out there and throwing innings and obviously I didn't do anything this year," Webb said. "It was tough to sit on the sideline and see the team struggle the way we did."

In addition to winning the Cy Young Award in 2006, he finished second in both '07 and '08, when he was 22-7 with a 3.30 ERA.

"I'm really happy we got Webby back," fellow starter Dan Haren said. "Seeing how hard he was working to get better toward the end of the year, I know he wanted to be back here. I'm sure he watched us struggle last year and felt bad because he couldn't do anything to help us. Any team instantly would get better by signing Webby, so I'm obviously happy we brought him back."

While he has developed an impressive changeup and a good curveball, Webb's signature pitch has always been a devastating sinker. It's a pitch he is confident he will still have despite the shoulder issues.

"Even when I was throwing and I was still having some pain, the life on the ball was still there," Webb said. "I can't be too sure, but I'm pretty sure I'll always probably have that sinking action, because that's just how my arm action is, it allows the ball to do that."

Had the D-backs not exercised the option, Webb would have become a free agent for the first time in his career. He previously signed contract extensions in 2004 and 2006.

"This has always been my first choice for sure to stay here," Webb said. "I'm comfortable here. I'm happy where I am at."

Webb nearly signed another three-year extension in 2008, but the D-backs withdrew the offer after having trouble getting insurance on the contract.

Whether something could be worked out in the future is unknown and it's a subject that Byrnes as well as Webb's agents, would prefer to keep out of the media.

"We've said from Day 1 that Brandon is very happy with the Diamondbacks and our preference was to remain in Arizona," said Jonathan Maurer, who, along with Mike Montana, represents Webb. "We would love to work out something long term, but we will just take this year and see how it plays out."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.