Amidst all of the young arms the St. Louis Cardinals have brought up this year, there have been two veteran pitchers tasked with being the staff’s anchors.
The first, Adam Wainwright, has filled the role well. He’s having a great season and even manages to eat innings on the nights when he struggles the most.
On more than one occasion he’s even voiced disgust over being pulled from a game.
The other anchor has been Jake Westbrook. Despite early season injuries, he held up his end of the deal early in the season. In fact, he finished April with four starts and a 0.48 ERA.
He pitched more like himself in the following months. He got the ground ball outs he’s so well known for and ate innings to rest the bullpen.
Westbrook had another great month in July, with three seven-inning performances and four quality starts over five appearances.
When the Cardinals' struggles kicked into high gear in late July, so did Westbrook’s.
In four August starts, Westbrook is 0-3 with an 11.02 ERA.
In those starts he has pitched a combined 21 innings, surrendered 34 hits and 24 earned runs.
I’ll cut him some slack for the spot "start" on August 7 when Shelby Miller was struck in the elbow by a line drive in the second pitch of a game. What happened that night was no fault of his own.
Baseball players—even more so starting pitchers—are creatures of habit. Starting on seven minutes notice is simply not in their repertoire. You shouldn’t expect it to be.
I’m not debating whether bringing him in was the right answer to the crisis. Despite the outcome, he deserved an “attaboy” simply for drudging out there and taking the beating.
Even without that start factored in, though, the month has been disastrous and has cost the Cardinals dearly.
With that spot "start” removed, he has surrendered 15 runs in three starts on 21 hits alongside 11 walks.
Irate fans on Twitter spent Wednesday afternoon—and much of the last week—calling for Westbrook’s head on a platter. That’s a bit much.
There is truth to the fact that right now the Cardinals don’t have room for error. At this time, Westbrook has been that guy.
The Cardinals have several options at their disposal with Michael Wacha, Tyler Lyons and Carlos Martinez.
In regards to the Westbrook situation, St. Louis finds itself with three options.
First, they could skip him a start or two. That’s the simple answer, but it may not be the right answer.
Second, they could send him to Triple-A Memphis for either a little while or the remainder of the season. If they don’t feel he is going to come back around, this could be the only option.
The third, and least attractive option, is to simply cut him loose. Westbrook’s contract ends after this season. A mutual option remains, but the chances of that being exercised are slim.
Regardless, such a move wouldn’t show Westbrook the respect he has earned in his years as a Cardinal and I don’t believe John Mozeliak would go that route.
In all honesty, I also think it may be a bit drastic.
The best scenario for him at this point would be to make his next start in Memphis as they close out their season. If it goes well, he could be brought up and used in a mop-up role for the remainder of the season.
The Cardinals have little room for error at this point in the season. It’s not panic time, but it’s also not the time to send a badly struggling starter to the mound every fifth day.
I’d expect some type of “adjustment” very soon.