Tribe News and Notes: Jake Westbrook Makes Progress, Zach Jackson Makes Final Cut

20051001clevelandindiansjakewestbrookWith the preseason that Jake Westbrook had back in 2008, there was no pitcher that had the biggest potential of a surprise season than he.  Of course, Cliff Lee went on to have one of the best seasons ever by an Indians starting pitcher but he was not alone in his successes through the first few weeks.

In a year like the Tribe had last season, the fact that Westbrook had an ERA of 3.12 and a WHIP of 1.15 through his first five games can easily be overlooked.  Factor in that Westbrook also had a complete game and a groundball rate of 58 percent and Lee may not have been the lone Indians pitcher in the All-Star game.  Naturally, that season would wind up being derailed with an elbow injury ultimately resulting in Tommy John surgery.

Which makes the news of his rehabilitation that much more exciting.

Jake Westbrook also threw a bullpen today. He’s been doing so every Monday and Friday, and that will continue as the Indians leave camp and Westbrook stays behind. Over the course of April, he’ll progress to facing live hitters and eventually get into some games. He could be ready to go out on a rehab assignment by mid- to late-May. Today, Westbrook threw 60 fastballs off the mound and 15 curves and changeups off flat ground.

Mid- to late-May sounds like a pretty agressive target return, as Westbrooks surgery occurred in mid-June of last season.  However, the fact that the team could even consider using this as a target speaks volumes for the progress that Jake has made over the course of the last 10 months.

Given the uncertainty at the back end of the Indians’ current rotation, having Westbrook back prior to the All-Star game sounds like it could be a small insurance policy.  We can’t expect him to be near his former All-Star form right out of the gate, but another guy who had his first full season after Tommy John surgery was outfielder Shin-Soo Choo in 2008.  And all he did was put up an OPS of .946 in 317 at-bats.  Not too shabby.

Other Tribe news and notes:

– Zach Jackson officially landed a roster spot as the final Indian pitcher.  Matt Herges and Vinny Chulk were sent to the Clippers.  One of four players acquired for CC Sabathia, Jackson will likely go down as the most overlooked.  Yet he’s the first one to crack the opening day roster as a much-needed left arm in the bullpen.  His role in long relief will be key in bridging the starters to the recently bolstered bullpen.

– Travis Hafner went yard yesterday against the Padres.  Reportedly, our designated hitter absolutely obliterated the ball over 400-feet to right-center field.  Perhaps this is the glimpse of hope that will keep him in the three- or four-hole come this season.

– On yesterday’s David Dellucci news.  You’ll be glad to know that the Indians will not be charged Trevor Crowe’s option after originally sending him to Columbus.  That clock doesn’t start until Crowe’s 20th in-season day in the minors.  Thus, if Trevor finds a way to stay with the big boys, he’ll still have his option. 

– We have one final space available for the WFNY fantasy baseball league.  16 teams, auction style.  The draft is tomorrow at 8:00P EST.  If you preset auction prices, the computer will draft for you in the event that you can’t make it.  First come, first served in the comments.