What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time the Rangers were approaching bankruptcy hell and could not even dream of taking a risk on a pitcher who has the upside potential of Brandon Webb.

After all, with MLB paying the Rangers payroll risking $3 million on anyone with Webb's injury history would have been damaging in many ways.

Things are different now in Arlington as the team can afford to risk what is now considered a meager salary for another of Jon Daniels' projects.

There are two ways this can go for the Rangers.

Webb can either be the next Chris Carpenter who came back from major shoulder surgery to be an ace for the Cardinals or he can be Mark Prior who has yet to recover from his shoulder issues and now looks to be a mediocre reliever at best.

I don't believe there will be a gray area here because Webb is an exceptional talent who gets ground balls at a ridiculous rate when he's healthy, a pitcher perfect for Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The only question to be answered is his health, an answer the Rangers will get very soon in March and it's tied to what his fastball is clocked at on the radar gun.

Last March Rich Harden worried every single scout who watched him pitch because he had lost the zip on his fastball.

In trying to regain his fastball velocity he sacrificed command and the result was mound vomit.

The Rangers of course had to keep giving him the ball because the team had invested so much salary into him that they had to give him every chance to turn it around.

I'm not bringing up Harden because I think Webb is the same type of risk or even the same pitcher.

I'm bringing it up because if he doesn't regain his fastball velocity in Spring Training the team absolutely must learn from the Harden disaster and not break camp with him in the rotation.

With a base salary of only $3 million the Rangers have no excuse for opening the season with another former ace in the rotation that has lost his fastball because of injuries.

We've seen that movie before and I have no desire whatsoever to see it again, especially when defending an American League Championship.

The bar has been raised much higher than that.

However, if Webb does regain his fastball proving his performance over the winter was the result of not pitching in a long time and needing to rebuild arm strength then the Rangers can pencil him in behind Colby Lewis in the rotation and enjoy what should be a big comeback year for Webb.

It takes talent to even be mentioned in the discussion for the Cy Young award and Webb has won the award once and finished second twice.

He is an ace when healthy and the Rangers could once again strike gold like they did last season with Colby Lewis.

A rotation with C.J Wilson, Colby Lewis and a healthy Brandon Webb in the top three spots may not look the same as it did last season with Cliff Lee leading the way, but it could be just as dangerous.