Webb Shaking Off The Rust

Tyler Webb was in the midst of figuring it out in Triple-A earlier this season went he went down with a freak finger injury back in June. He missed the rest of the regular season and now he's back pitching again down at Instructs, looking to shake off the rust as he prepares himself for a stint in the Arizona Fall League.

He was following his breakout season of a year ago [when he struck out 94 batters in 68 innings and advanced three minor league levels] with another solid showing this season, posting a 2.84 ERA through his first 25 appearances with Triple-A Scranton, when he all of the sudden sustained a freak injury to the pointer finger on his pitching hand.

"It happened one night in the bullpen," he recounted. "It hurt a little bit that night but the next day I couldn't throw at all. I took a couple of days off, tried to throw [again], and it was the same thing.

"I then took ten days off and it was still there. I went to see a hand specialist in New York and he prescribed more rest, and by that time it was the All Star break. After the All Star break I went back up there [to New York] and got a cortisone injection, and then they sent me to Tampa to rehab.

"When the ball would come off my finger there would be this sharp pain throughout my pointer finger. Whenever I let [the ball go] it would be very painful.

"The hand specialist said it was brought on by a lot of stress on the finger. He said it isn't very common for pitchers but more common for rock climbers that put a lot of force on their finger tips."

The injury couldn't have come at a worst time for him either as he was in the midst of figuring it out in Triple-A. He was in the middle of a seven-game scoreless streak, not allowing an earned run over 10.1 innings and walking just one while striking out ten batters.

"Right in the beginning I was a little disappointed because right before I got hurt I was throwing real well," he said. "I was feeling good. I had a little bit of a rocky start and I felt like I was figuring it out. I was doing real well and then boom, out of nowhere this freak finger thing happened so from that standpoint I was a little upset.

"I felt like my slider had been coming around and I was getting into the swing of the season, and kind of hitting my stride in all aspects really, and out of nowhere this happened. It was unfortunate.

"A finger is better than a elbow [injury] or a shoulder [injury] though so from that standpoint it was a good thing. At the same time though I wasn't throwing, I was in Tampa [rehabbing], and I'd rather have been in Scranton."

He last pitched in a game on June 23rd and the time when he sustained the injury to his finger he never expected to miss the remainder of the season. He didn't throw for over a month because of his finger and then had to get his arm back in shape, and that took a while. He had a mild setback with some shoulder tendonitis after not throwing for a while but it wasn't that big a deal, setting him back just a week. Still, he needed more time.

"No I didn't think it would be that long," he admitted. "I thought it would be a quick thing, maybe a week or two, and then be back on the mound. It was just a freak thing I guess.

"It was weird because my arm felt great and my whole body felt great -- it was just the tip of my pointer finger. And there's really no getting around it, you have to use your finger to throw.

"Once I got to Tampa I knew it was going to be a longer process just because I hadn't throw in a month and they couldn't just throw me back on the mound or else I would have gotten hurt worse than I am now. It made sense.

"I eventually thought I'd get back on the mound, maybe the last three weeks or so to get some more innings. I just kind of ran out of time basically. It was kind of a bad deal."

Just a case of bad timing, he finished his throwing program about two weeks ago, right in time for the end of the minor league regular season. Rather than rush him back for a token Triple-A appearance the Yankees held him back in Tampa and have had him facing live batters at the minor league complex for the last couple of weeks.

"I've been facing batters for about two weeks now and get a couple of innings under my belt. Health-wise I feel like I'm 100 percent healthy now. I'm just trying to knock the rust off now a little bit with location and offspeed pitches.

"I'm not into the full swing of things yet where I was [earlier in the season] but from a health standpoint I feel great. I've been doing a lot of extra stuff down here for my arm conditioning-wise and I feel as good as I would have leaving Spring Training."

The plan is to have him participate in the early part of Instructional League before sending him off to the Arizona Fall League on October 7th to not only get some more innings under his belt but help prepare him for a full return in 2016.

"I'm looking forward to it. I've never been to Arizona or even out west so it'll be interesting to see all of those places. The competition out there is pretty good so I'm looking forward to it.

"I'll be there to shake off the rest definitely but at the same time I'll be continuing trying to get my breaking ball better. It's still not where I want it to be.

"I don't feel it's a quality big league pitch yet so I just want to catch that up to my other two pitches. I feel like those are a couple of steps ahead of where my breaking ball is. Being a bullpen guy I really need that breaking ball. That's really my main focus.

"I think it was making strides in the right direction [before the finger injury] so now at Instructs it might be a blessing in disguise that I get more time to work on it and in not such a pressure-packed situation.

"It's a little easier to throw it and to trust it at Instructs as opposed to having to throw the pitch [in actual games] but still having to get guys out too," he concluded.

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