Long toss for Brandon Webb.

The fact that Cliff Lee has been dealing with a mild oblique strain is a reminder, overlaid against the reports that Brandon Webb is being taken off a standard mound routine to throw long toss for now, that: (1) devoting six years and $120 million (and possibly $135 million) to a 32-year-old is scary, but so is giving one year and $3 million (and possibly $8 million) to a 31-year-old coming off a major injury – pitchers are risks – and (2) this is the time of the year, with baseball in session but no game performances to overreact to, when every single physical issue is made into news (Lee is reportedly at 100 percent, and Webb could still be on schedule to take the ball on April 5 against Seattle).
But given Webb’s immediate history, this can’t just be written off like a John Wetteland spring training neck strain.  Like Josh Hamilton’s bruised shoulder this time last year, Webb’s arm strength, deemed after his first bullpen session to be insufficient at this stage for throwing off a mound, is going to be a story for several weeks, at least.  Even if he’s allowed to throw downhill soon, he’ll be behind others, and it’s probably a fair bet that he starts the year on the disabled list, even if briefly and only as a precautionary measure – and that may be optimistic.  
Michael Young (who addressed his teammates before the club’s first full-squad workout yesterday) is expected to sit down with Ron Washington and infield coach Dave Anderson today to outline his workout schedule for camp, mapping out his drills at first base, second base, and third base.  He won’t be considered a backup at shortstop or in the outfield.
Chris Davis will work primarily at third base in camp.  
Tanner Scheppers is working on a starter’s schedule and will pitch out of the Round Rock rotation, unless he makes the Rangers’ Opening Day bullpen.
Righthander Alexi Ogando is throwing without pain, fully past the strained abdominal muscle he suffered in Game Four of the World Series.
(Given the good news on Ogando, I don’t mind saying the last part of that sentence was pretty cool to be able to write.)
Texas is hopeful that Scott Feldman, who had microfracture surgery on his right knee in November and is throwing on flat ground, will be able to throw off a mound late in March.  He won’t be ready for Opening Day.
Righthander Omar Beltre, diagnosed last week with spinal stenosis, a genetic disorder marked by abnormal narrowing of the spine, will undergo surgery tomorrow and won’t resume baseball activities for another two months.
Outfielder Craig Gentry isn’t yet at full strength after right wrist surgery in August.  He had a cortisone shot a couple days ago and should get rolling this week.
First baseman Chad Tracy won’t work in the outfield for now, limited after “clean-up” surgery on his right shoulder this winter.
Of the four prospects added by Texas to the 40-man roster in November, three are dealing with injuries.  Righthander Fabio Castillo is sidelined indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot.  Lefthander Miguel De Los Santos is recovering from off-season biceps tendinitis.  And Wilmer Font had Tommy John surgery at the end of last season.  Only outfielder Engel Beltre is fully healthy.
Righthander Brett Tomko, signed over the weekend to a minor league contract (without an invite to big league camp) (and arguably the longtime Face of the Hardline’s “Future Ranger” Franchise), was singled out many years ago as perhaps the only free agent starting pitcher Texas ever approached only to be told he wasn’t crazy about the idea of pitching in Rangers Ballpark.
Kevin Millwood rejected the Yankees’ offer of a minor league contract.
Rich Harden has been shut down for a couple weeks by the A’s, complaining of pain in his right side.
The Mets signed first baseman Chris Shelton to a minor league deal.
Righthander Chris Ray says he turned down another club’s big league contract offer before agreeing to a minor league deal with Seattle, claiming he did so because he believes the Mariners will give him a shot at closing games or at least setting up late.
San Diego released infielder Gregorio Petit, who had injured his knee in winter ball.
The Dodgers signed righthander Geoff Geary to a minor league deal.
The Baltimore Showalters signed righthander Ryan Drese to a minor league contract, which I found strange.  The club also signed outfielder Joe Gaetti to a minor league deal.
The Mets gave righthander Johnny Lujan a non-roster invite to big league camp.  San Francisco signed infielder Edgar Gonzalez to a minor league deal but with no invite.
The great Jason Parks has launched his new website, offering scouting-based analysis of the Rangers farm system, at http://www.texasfarmreview.com.   Sign up, and you’ll learn a lot.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman, asked by Larry Stone of the Seattle Times whether trading for Cliff Lee in July might have led the lefthander to sign long-term with New York this winter, said: “Maybe.  Or maybe he would have hated it.  Who knows?  It goes both ways.  He went there (Texas) to help them win a World Series, but he lost two games in the World Series to the Giants.  You just don’t know how this stuff plays out.”
Cashman’s not very good at quotes.
Seattle and New York both screwed up on that trade.  The Yankees should have thrown Eduardo Nunez or Ivan Nova into the deal, and the Mariners should have taken Jesus Montero – regardless of the secondary pieces – instead of Justin Smoak.
It’s sort of amazing how badly Lee has been traded in his career.  All four times the team getting Lee (Cleveland, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Texas) won the deal handily (which of course means that the first three of those clubs, along with Montreal in 2002, were guilty of being on the other end).  
The Phillies have acquired Lee a second time, and like every other team that has added the lefthander, they probably won’t regret it, at least for a few years.  But given the level of their investment, when his muscular issue led the club to shut him down for a week in January (after he’d missed time early in the 2007 and 2010 seasons with abdominal strains), you can understand how there might have been a sleepless night or two in the Philadelphia front office.
Even with nothing but minor dings and occasional barks, no team can ever expect to get through a season with fewer than eight or nine starting pitchers.  Brandon Webb’s early-camp setback, if it can be termed that, shouldn’t come as a great surprise, given what he’s coming back from, and that’s one reason that this club, even with a decent amount of depth in back-of-rotation candidates, has made agate-type news the last few weeks with veterans like Dave Bush and Brett Tomko, and theoretically may not be finished.

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