How bad are the Indians going to be in 2010? Mark Shapiro is already lining up Jake Westbrook to be the opening day starter in 2010. No offense to you Jake Westbrook, but...what?!?
Jake Westbrook isn't a bad starter. As a matter of fact, he's far from it. You could make a case that during his tenure as a healthy Indians' starter, he's been the most consistent pitcher not named Sabathia to wear the Indians' jersey since the days of Chuck Nagy. Westbrook pitched just over 900 innings from 2003 and 2007, making 143 starts during that span. His ERA was slightly over 4.00, and he went 57-53 during that span. There's no doubt that Westbrook had become a prototypical #3 or #4 starter. He was an innings-eater who could win games when needed.
Now, after over a year off, Shapiro is proclaiming Westbrook to be the opening day starter in 2010. Okay, I get that Westbrook is a pitbull on the mound, has tenure, and has been unhittable in spring training over the past couple of years when healthy. But do you really want to throw that comment out there with Westbrook not nearly recovered from Tommy John surgery? I'm sure Justin Masterson and Fausto Carmona are just thrilled with the news.
In fairness to Mr. Mark Shapiro, he did say "if he's healthy" after making the initial comment. In equal fairness, he also made the comment before Westbrook was pulled from his latest start with double A Akron last night. I'll get to that in a minute.
In case you were wondering, Jake Westbrook hasn't made a start since May 28th, 2008. In case you were wondering more, he hasn't made back-to-back starts since April 14th and April 19th, 2008. Either Westbrook is a future Cy Young award winner for Shapiro to proclaim him the opening day guy in 2010, or the Indians' pitching is going to be utter garbage. Call this the irony of waiting so many years for solid pitching, only two trade off two Cy Young award winners in back-to-back years.
Enter Westbrook, who missed most of 2008 and all of 2009 so far because of Tommy John surgery. As mentioned before, Westbrook was pulled from his start on Sunday because of a sore elbow. It's not known whether or not the soreness is the regular process of recovering from Tommy John surgery, or something much more dramatic, such as the need for another surgery. Either way, it puts a rather large cloud over whether or not he can start on opening day, oh, say seven months from now.
The hope here is that this soreness for Westbrook is a normal elbow issue and that he finishes out the season with a flourish. Let's hope he follows it with a spring like a couple of years ago, and earns that opening day starter's job.
Leave the game-day decisions to the manager Mark. Oh, wait, Wedge is still the manager. Nevermind.