Though it was obscured for many by the continued Ryan Franklin controversy, St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jake Westbrook had his fourth consecutive subpar outing of the season on Wednesday afternoon.
The right-hander’s day was done after just three innings. Westbrook was roughed up by the Washington Nationals to the tune of seven runs on seven hits and two walks. Of his 67 pitches, 39 were strikes. His season ERA ballooned to 9.82.
Because of Tuesday night’s rainout, Westbrook had been held over to Wednesday. That means his next scheduled turn would be Sunday night against division rival Cincinnati on just three days of rest.
Manager Tony La Russa has not yet confirmed Westbrook will be his Sunday starter in front of the ESPN national audience, but he likely has few alternatives.
St. Louis’ bullpen was taxed by the Wednesday double-header and would seem to need some well-pitched starts by Kyle Lohse, Kyle McClellan and Chris Carpenter between now and Sunday to enable a bullpen game that evening to become a viable consideration.
There isn’t a clear and easy option in Triple-A, either. Memphis’ scheduled Sunday pitcher is Brandon Dickson, who has been pitching very well. Because the right-hander is not on the 40-man roster and it is full, a move, while not impossible, would have associated risks. P.J. Walters is the only member of the Redbirds rotation on the 40-man, but his scheduled day to pitch is Saturday and he has not had good results in the early going.
That brings us back to Westbrook. I asked Tom Orf to research Westbrook’s career to identify his past experience when starting with just three days rest.
There are only two such examples, both from the infancy of the 33-year-old’s 11 seasons as a major leaguer.
Most recall Westbrook as a Cleveland Indian, but he actually began in the Montreal system before being dealt to the New York Yankees in return for Hideki Irabu in 1999.
On June 22, 2000, Westbrook took the ball for the Yanks against the Red Sox. It was only the third appearance of his career and would turn out to be his last MLB outing that season.
He took the defeat in a 4-2 Boston win. Westbrook went only 2 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits and two walks. He fanned just one.
Then with Cleveland, on July 3, 2001, Westbrook pitched on three days rest when he was given a start, once again facing Boston.
This time, he earned the victory in a 9-1 Indians win. Westbrook yielded just one earned run on five hits and two walks. He had four strikeouts. The only Boston run scored on a Trot Nixon home run in Westbrook’s sixth and final inning.
No one yet knows who Cardinals fans will see take the Busch Stadium mound on Sunday night and how he and the club will fare.