Manny Acta and the Cleveland Indians are desperate for starting pitching. So desperate, in fact, that Manny Acta has suggested already that Westbrook is going to be the Indians #1 starter.
"I can't give you five pitchers exactly," said Acta. We're counting a lot on Jake Westbrook to complete his rehab and be our No.1 guy."Keep in mind that Westbrook hasn't started a game since May 28, 2008. He made three rehab starts last season, but elbow soreness force him to shut down for the season.
As mentioned here at the B3 yesterday, Westbrook made his first start for Ponce of the Puerto Rican Winter League. According to the numbers, the start was shaky at best, but the numbers really don't tell the tale. As I noted yesterday, Westbrook force four groundball outs out of five before leaving after 1 2/3. Add to that the three ground ball hits that Westbrook gave up, and you have a clear picture of Westbrook doing what he does best, force ground balls.
The only concern I had going in to this start was why Westbrook was pulled prior to finishing the second inning, especially with visions of sore elbows dancing in my head. According to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer, "Westbrook was on a 35-pitch limit and threw 22 in the first inning." Westbrook's manager at Ponce, former Tribe first baseman Eduardo Perez, said,
"Jake's numbers might not look pretty, but his cutter was good, he had good velocity, good sink and good movement. He walked the leadoff hitter, Luis Durango from the Padres, on a couple of pitches I thought were strikes."Even more important, Westbrook was pain free and continuing his workouts today, a big step forward from last season.
I'm still concerned that Westbrook is a #3 starter at best, and coming off an injury, even that's not a guarantee. For years, Tribe fans have been starving for starting pitching, and it's really hard to swallow losing back-to-back Cy Young award winners. Had we had those pitchers in the mid-90's, we'd be carrying at least one trophy. Now, we are hoping for Jake Westbrook to not have a sore elbow. This could be an extremely painful season.
Rafael Perez made a second start today for Gigantes del Cibao. According to Tony Lastoria, who runs the best minor league blog site on these here internets, Perez isn't set to be in the Indians starting rotation. Instead, the Indians are allowing him to repeat his delivery. This likely will create a more consistent slider and fastball, both of which have tremendous movement, and both of which have caused Perez the most difficulty over the past two seasons. Well, the strategy seems to be working, perhaps too well.
Perez followed his four shutout innings five days ago, with four more shutout innings this afternoon. Perez gave up two hits and three walks, while striking out three in his four innings of work. In nine innings, Perez currently has a rather low ERA of zero, zip, zilch.
So, repetition creates a more consistent delivery, right? Well, if Perez continues to look this good starting, perhaps the Indians should consider Perez as a starter. So theoretically, starting can created this pitching rhythm. Of course it does, or the Indians wouldn't have Perez starting in the first place. The Indians certainly have a high need at both ends of the bullpen, but if Perez can command his pitches as a starter, perhaps their experiment in 2006 to move him to the bullpen should be discarded now. Right now, Manny Acta and his staff need to look in every nook and cranny for starters, and if Perez can harness his tremendous talent in that role, perhaps we can catch lightning in a bottle. It just takes one starter to break through to change the Indians' fortunes. Think back to Fausto Carmona. Granted, he had CC Sabathia, but you get my point.
Alas, two winter starts do not make a starter, but it sure does give Tribe fans something to watch during the otherwise boring hot stove season.