Westbrook to miss spring opener

Westbrook to miss spring opener

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- It's a spring tradition -- like blooming flowers and dropping rain.

For some reason that even he can't explain, Jake Westbrook always gets the starting nod in the Indians' first Spring Training game.

But not this year.

The right-handed Westbrook has been scratched from his scheduled start Thursday against the Astros in the Tribe's Grapefruit League opener because of soreness in his throwing arm.

Westbrook doesn't seem to think the injury is serious, but it is serious enough that he doesn't feel comfortable facing batters.

"I'll throw a bullpen instead," Westbrook said. "If I get in front of a hitter, I might try to do too much and hurt it more."

The soreness stems from throwing bullpens every other day in the early days of camp. Westbrook said his arm typically doesn't tolerate such a routine well.

"I usually get this every year," he said of the soreness. "I'm not a big fan of bullpens every other day. It usually acts up on me. So I'll take a few days, throw a 'pen and get back on track."

Westbrook, 30, is hoping for a full, healthy season after a tumultuous '07. Last year, he strained his abdominal muscle in May and didn't return to the Tribe until mid-June. An inconsistent season resulted from the injury, though Westbrook did turn his game around in the second half. He finished the regular season with a 6-9 record and a 4.32 ERA in 25 starts, then went 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA in three postseason starts.

The Indians are counting on Westbrook to be their third starter this season, behind 19-game winners C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona.

As for breaking tradition, Westbrook is just as puzzled as anybody as to how he's somehow become the de facto first starter in Spring Training. He said the tradition actually dates back to his days with the Yankees. He started their Grapefruit opener in 2000.

"It was my second big-league camp, and they told me I'd be starting the first game," Westbrook said. "I was scared to death."

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