Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Ryan Webb, SP

In November, the Oakland A's chose to protect only one minor leaguer from the Rule 5 draft by adding him to the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 deadline: right-hander Ryan Webb. The 23-year-old got his first taste of the big leagues in spring training this year and is looking to build off of that experience with Triple-A Sacramento. We caught-up with Webb over the weekend…

When the Oakland A's took right-hander Ryan Webb out of a Florida high school in the 2004 draft, they envisioned that the 6'6'' right-hander would eventually develop into a hard-thrower capable of over-powering opposing hitters. It took a few years for Webb to develop his velocity, but he can now be firmly called a hard-thrower. This spring, he was regularly clocked in the mid-90s with his fastball. Given his height and the quality of his stuff, Webb presents an imposing presence on the mound.

Despite his good stuff, Webb has had mixed results thus far in his minor league career. In five-plus seasons, he has a 5.38 career ERA and he has averaged well over a hit an inning. Last year, Webb went 9-8 with a 5.19 ERA in 130 innings for the Double-A Midland Rockhounds. Webb has always been one of the younger players on his teams and the A's and Webb are hoping that as he gains experience, his results will eventually match the quality of his stuff.

Last Friday, Webb made his Triple-A debut with Sacramento. He darted in-and-out of trouble to earn the win, allowing three runs on eight hits in five innings. He struck-out five in the game. Webb will make his second appearance for the River Cats today at Raley Field.

We spoke to the big right-hander over the weekend about his progress as a pitcher and his experiences this spring in big league camp…

OaklandClubhouse: How was your first big league spring training? Did you learn a lot from that experience?

Ryan Webb: It was awesome. I have been looking forward to getting to do that since I signed. It was a great experience, and to have been able go with friends of mine who I have come up the system with made it a little more comfortable and more pleasant. I wasn't as star-struck and it was just an overall blast.

OC: The last two years you have added a lot of velocity to your fastball. Do you think that was just the natural progression of you growing into your body, or did you make some changes with your mechanics?

RW: It could have been. I have worked really hard during the off-season ever since I signed. I've had a personal trainer that I have gone to each off-season. I have put on almost 40 pounds since high school. That's going to happen naturally to some extent, but I worked hard each off-season and came back each year stronger. I have also made little mechanical adjustments. This season I have really opened up and I am on-line towards the plate and I have never felt so good having the ball come out of my hand. Everything kind of came together and now it is just a matter of me going out there and pitching in a game and getting the results I am looking for.

OC: In your first start at Triple-A, did you feel much of a difference in the level of play as compared to Double-A, or is it too early to tell still?

RW: I got a good taste of it pitching in spring training. I felt like I had a really good spring and I was kind of overpowering a lot of guys. It was a good confidence builder and it allowed me to come in here and feel a little more relaxed and know what to expect from the hitters. Everybody you face from this level on up is going to be a good hitter, but you kind of just have to go out there and know that when you are going to compete at this level, your stuff is good enough to get these guys out and not be scared.

In my first game, I gave up a few more hits than I wanted to, but you know what? You are going to get beat sometimes when you are throwing your pitches. You just have to get out of it. I thought I pitched well even though the results weren't what I wanted. I pitched my heart out and got out of it and that is what I am going to have to do this year if I want to be successful.

OC: Do you still talk to your dad [former major league pitcher Hank Webb] after every start?

RW: Yeah, I try to talk to them everyday, my mom and dad. He's always got advice for me, always, so I definitely try to talk to him everyday and get what I can from him.

OC: Are you working on any particular pitches right now or are you refining what you already have in your arsenal?

RW: Like I said, I have made a number of little adjustments. This spring, I moved to the other side of the rubber, so I am working on that. It has improved my direction towards the plate and kind of opened up the whole outer-half of the plate for me and I can pitch in. I am also working on throwing my two-seamer and keeping it down to get groundballs.

I also added a curveball this year that is really going to end up being an out-pitch for me. I threw it a lot during the spring and I have pretty much gotten all of my strike-outs with it thus far. It is really going to be a bonus. I finally have a pitch that goes down. I always had a fastball that runs and a change-up that runs and a slider that moves across the plate, so everything was always on one level. Now I have a pitch that I can expand the strike-zone with and it is really going open up a lot of possibilities in terms of getting ahead of hitters. I feel confident that I am going to get an out once I get ahead.

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