CLEVELAND -- A healthy Jake Westbrook would likely be the Indians' Opening Day starter in 2010. As it turns out, if that happens, it would probably be Westbrook's first start in the Majors since May 2008. Westbrook has suffered his second setback of the summer in his return from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, and this one is going to put him on the shelf for six weeks. Westbrook visited specialist Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles on Monday and received good news and bad news.
The good news, according to head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff, is that Westbrook, who made a rehab appearance at Double-A Akron last week, does not have any structural damage in the elbow. The bad news is that the development of scar tissue in the elbow and flexor tendinitis led Yocum to believe the shutdown is in order. That pretty much eliminates any chance of Westbrook rejoining the Tribe rotation this season. At the outset of the season, the club had hoped Westbrook would be a boost to the rotation by the All-Star break. But those plans, much like the Indians' contention hopes, have gone by the wayside. "We certainly hope Jake will pitch for us this season," Soloff said. "It's increasingly unlikely that will take place." The Indians are paying the rehabbing Westbrook, who is 63-64 with a 4.31 ERA in 200 Major League appearances, $10 million this season, and they're on the hook for another $11 million next year. As far as next year is concerned, the Indians are determining whether or not Westbrook will pitch in winter ball as preparation for 2010 Spring Training camp. "We'll determine that in the coming weeks," Soloff said. If Westbrook does pitch winter ball, he'd likely report to Goodyear, Ariz., first, building up arm strength in the fall instructional league. Westbrook, who turns 32 next month, had the Tommy John procedure performed in June 2008, and the recovery time for such a procedure is generally 12-18 months, Soloff said. Soloff also said Westbrook's age might have come into play, as has the fact that Westbrook had surgery to transpose an ulnar nerve in his elbow in 2002. "Older athletes, in chronic cases, may take a little longer [to recover]," Soloff said. Westbrook has made a total of three rehab appearances this season for Akron, going 0-1 with a 2.00 ERA in nine innings of work. He was shut down in June for about six weeks after experiencing soreness in his second start with the Aeros. With Westbrook likely out of the picture for this season, the Indians will continue to get a look at younger arms in their rotation. It's possible that right-handers Carlos Carrasco and Hector Rondon could be called up from Triple-A Columbus in September.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.