Westbrook frustrated by command struggles

Westbrook frustrated by command struggles

CLEVELAND -- The long wait for a win continues for Indians right-hander Jake Westbrook, and the wait will likely continue until the veteran sinkerballer gets more consistency with his command.

Westbrook has been erratic in six starts since his return from the Tommy John surgery performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum in June 2008. He is 0-2 with a 5.74 ERA, has walked 17 batters and has thrown four wild pitches in 34 2/3 innings.

Finding the feel to pitch has been difficult for the 32-year-old Westbrook thus far, and it could be a long search.

"Actually, I spoke to Dr. Yocum when we were in Anaheim," pitching coach Tim Belcher said. "He said most of his patients with that Tommy John don't really get their command back until the second year. Hopefully it comes a little bit quicker for [Westbrook]."

That's not a great prognosis for the guy the Indians entrusted with the No. 1 spot in their rotation. And Westbrook, who also dealt with some back tightness before his start against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night, is frustrated with his progress, or lack thereof.

"I feel I should be making progress," he said after allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits with five walks and three strikeouts in a no-decision against the Jays. "I haven't done that."

Even on the days when he has looked sharp early in the game, Westbrook has seen his effectiveness peter out as the game progresses. That was particularly evident April 28 in Anaheim, when he tossed five scoreless before giving up three runs in the sixth to erase a 3-0 Tribe lead.

The good news is that Westbrook's arm feels great, and his velocity is clearly intact.

"He's probably in better shape than half the position players," Belcher said. "He's strong."

But until he can command the direction of his pitches, Westbrook, who won 44 games from 2004-06, is going to struggle to be the reliable arm he once was.

"Not only that, but he wasn't a dart-thrower to begin with," Belcher said. "He was a movement guy, anyway. He didn't spot it here, spot it there. He relied on his movement."

Thus far in 2010, Westbrook has been more unreliable than he or the Indians would like.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.