Jake Westbrook during spring training.
The Indians finally got a bit of good news Saturday when Jake Westbrook pitched three scoreless innings in his first rehab start at Double-A Akron. The Indians, who have had nothing but bad news since the start of the season, are hoping that the right-hander will be able to rejoin the team by the All-Star break. The ballclub certainly could use a boost, particularly on the mound.
Westbrook, who has been working out at the Indians' spring training complex in Arizona, finally was cleared for competition and reported to Akron. He didn't disappoint, allowing only one hit and one walk over three innings, striking out one.
The veteran got five outs on grounders and three on fly balls. He was scheduled to make 50 pitches, but needed only 39 to get through his allotted three innings as the team continues to proceed cautiously with the right-hander.
Westbrook, 31, had reconstructive surgery on his right elbow last June 12.
He had opened the 2008 season in good fashion, going 1-2 with a fine 2.73 ERA in four starts before straining a right intercoastal muscle on April 19. He made a couple of rehab starts in the minors, then started for the Indians on May 28 against the Chicago White Sox, but left after five innings with an inflamed elbow.
While the Indians do not expect Westbrook to be able to carry a heavy workload this season, his presence back in the rotation would be very much welcome.
Cleveland's starting staff today is nothing like what opened the 2008 season. Then, the Indians had two 19-game winners from 2007 at the head of the rotation in CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, followed by the steady Westbrook 50-43 the previous four seasons and was clearly the team's best pitcher in '08 spring training. The No. 4 starter was veteran right-hander Paul Byrd and No. 5 was Cliff Lee -- who came back from a poor 2007 season to have one of the best years in team history by going 22-3 and winning the 2008 AL Cy Young Award.
Westbrook went down to injury, then Sabathia was dealt on July 7 to Milwaukee. Byrd was traded to Boston in August and Carmona was optioned to the Arizona Rookie League earlier this week because of continued ineffectiveness.
Lefty Aaron Laffey was one of the young pitchers called up to help, but he is on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle.
Right-hander Anthony Reyes, acquired from St. Louis last July, is sidelined with a sore elbow and may need the same surgical procedure that Westbrook had performed.