When asked who might be the Indians’ opening day starter next season, GM Mark Shapiro said, “Jake Westbrook if he’s healthy.”
Quite an interesting development considering Jake hasn’t pitched since May 2008 and has never been considered top of the rotation material. True, Jake is a rock of consistency and probably the one vocal leader left on the team, despite being on the disabled list.
Before blowing out his elbow early last season, Jake has rightfully earned his three year, $33 million extension. The shame of it is the Indians haven’t been able to reap the benefits of it as of yet. Westbrook averaged 15 wins from 2004-2006 while pitching over 210 innings per year. He missed time in 2007 with a side muscle injury but returned to be a solid post-season starter during the run to game seven of the ALCS.
Lets not forget that while CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona were wetting themselves against the Red Sox, Jake won his first start pitching into the seventh inning, allowing just two runs. He was also given the ball in game seven and went six strong innings and would have been dealt a better fate if not for the Skinner Stop sign and the Casey Blake 5-4-3 in the top of the seventh followed by Blake’s error that opened the flood gates in the excruciating bottom of the seventh.
In case you couldn’t tell, I still haven’t forgiven Casey Blake.
Regardless, the hope is to have the veteran savvy of Westbrook head the 2010 rotation with guys like Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, Aaron Laffey, and David Huff behind him. With Hector Rondon, Carlos Carrasco, and Jeanmar Gomez staying ready in Columbus, the rotation doesn’t look too bad.
Of course, this is coming from the same guy who thought that Anthony Reyes would win 15 games this year and that the depth of Scott Lewis and Zach Jackson was appealing. So in other words, take it with a grain of salt.
If you need your Jake fix, he starts for the Akron Aeros tonight. He threw a simulated game at Canal Park each of the past five days, per our Aeros insider Jacon Rosen. Westbrook hasn’t pitched in a full game since June 12th after suffering a set-back in his rehab.