After giving up 4, 5, 9 and 6 earned runs in each of his last 4 appearances, many have speculated that today was make or break time for Jake Westbrook, including Rick Hummel.
Well, after being given a 7-run lead after 2 innings, Westbrook proceeded to give up 3 runs in the 3rd and 2 in the 5th before being lifted after just 4.2 innings.
Let's face it, Westbrook's ship is sinking and its time for the Cardinals to abandon ship.
Part of the blame for Westbrook's recent struggles can be put on manager Mike Matheny, who threw Westbrook into the fire on August 7th after starter Shelby Miller had to leave the game after two pitches due to injury.
Westbrook was a trooper, pitching 4.2 innings on just 3 days rest, giving up 9 runs. To compound the madness, Matheny gave Westbrook 8 days off before his next appearance, a start on August 16th and was forced to keep Westbrook out there as long as possible due to an overworked bullpen (2 extra-inning games in 3 previous days). Westbrook threw 124 pitches on August 16th, but lasted just 6.2 innings, giving up 7 runs (6 earned).
You could possibly forgive Westbrook for those two bad outings, as he was out of his routine. However, today he had no such excuses, working on normal rest.
The problem with Westbrook is that he pitches to contact, relying on groundballs to get him out of jams. But, with a defense that is below-par in terms of range, a lot more of those groundballs have been finding holes of late.
Now Matheny faces a difficult decision, should he replace Westbrook in the rotation and, if so, with who?
Michael Wacha is probably the logical choice, but Carlos Martinez and Tyler Lyons are also decent options.
In addition, what do you do with Westbrook if you bump him from the rotation? Move him to the pen? As Bernie Miklasz pointed out a while back, Jake needs more time than most pitchers to warm up, not just throwing, but an elaborate pregame routine that involves the trainers. Can that translate to the bullpen? Probably not.
Would the Cardinals just release Westbrook? That's a definite possibility. They have enough depth behind him to let him go and latch on with another team. However, its more likely that the Cardinals will come up with some "injury" to give Jake some extra rest and then let him see if he can work out his issues on a minor league rehab assignment. If that doesn't work out, then he'd likely be released.
In any case, this should be the last we see of Westbrook in the Cardinals rotation.