Westbrook's long-awaited return arrives
Veteran back from Tommy John surgery to start Opening Day
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The day surgery became inevitable, Jake Westbrook knew it would be a long road back to the big leagues.At long last, he is set to reach the end of that road -- at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field.
A year ago at this time, Westbrook was on target to join the Tribe midseason. But he had not one, but two setbacks in his Minor League rehab program and eventually he ran out of time to pitch in '09."From the day they said I was about to have surgery, I knew it was going to be a long time," he said. "Even if it's 12 months, it's a long time. But you've got to keep plugging along, see how you feel each day and make adjustments when you can make adjustments, which I had to make a bunch of last year. That's why I'm so encouraged by how I feel right now." The situation around him is not as encouraging. While Westbrook was out of the office, the Indians traded away some valuable employees -- most notably Cy Young winners Sabathia and Cliff Lee. So Westbrook, who averaged 14.7 wins and 212.5 innings pitched from 2004-06, returns not as a middle-of-the-rotation guy looking to eat up innings -- but as the guy who will be counted on to lead the rotation, both in terms of performance and example. Westbrook, now 32 and entering the final year of his contract with the Tribe, is up for the challenge. "Over time, I've been put in that leadership role with my experience and the time in the big leagues that I have," he said. "Especially with all the trades, I'm the only one still here. So I definitely need to take on a leadership role, and I'm looking forward to that. It's exciting to see these young guys coming up, and hopefully I can be there to help them out any way they need me."
|Projected Opening Day lineup|
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.