Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Offense Drops the Ball, but Victor Healthy Again

Jake Westbrook's perfect Spring finally ended in his first regular season start. Westbrook scattered 7 hits over 18 innings with 20 strikeouts and 5 walks during his stay in Winter Haven. So it wasn't that surprising to see his 0.00 Spring ERA translate into an excellent start against the Chi Sox on Thursday. Jake threw 7.1 strong innings, striking out 3 and walking one batter. The only real damage done by Chicago were solo homers in the 6th and 8th innings. Like Carmona the day before, Westbrook turned out a vintage performance by working efficiently (100 pitches) and inducing 12 ground-ball outs.

Unfortunately, the Tribe also picked up where they left off by leaving another quality Westbrook start out to dry. The offense couldn't solve John Danks, managing just two hits and a run in their first loss of the season. With Victor absent, a hit-less day by the first four batters in the lineup will do that (Pronk did have a BB and a R, but that was it).

Victor did make an appearance, pinch-hitting for Michaels in the 8th (he popped out). Obviously Victor's hammy is feeling much better if he was able to bat. Postgame, Wedge said the team was "very happy" with Martinez's recovery process. It may have looked bad when he was injured three days ago, but I think the cold weather was the primary culprit at the time. Just to be safe, it sounds like Victor will have at least one more day off when Shoppach catches for Byrd on Friday. I'm really not worried about Vic's injury anymore, as it was not a serious condition in the first place. Cleveland's physical trainers are among the best in baseball and certainly wouldn't put a player at risk this early in the season.

I'm working on a Westbrook projection article this weekend, so look for that later on.

Around the Central

It's too early to read much into it, but did anyone else notice Kansas City swept the Tigers this week? The flaunted Detroit offense was held to five runs over three games and shut out once. Brian Bannister and Zach Greinke combined for 14 innings of 1 run ball, while Joakim Soria picked up his first two saves. Again, waaaaay too early, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. It's kind of a running joke that I've predicted K.C. to be competitive the last two seasons, but I mean it this time. Watch out for K.C.'s core of youngsters this year (and yes, I genuinely like the Royals as a team. Them and the Nationals; can I pick a winning franchise or what?).

Meanwhile, Detroit showed off a potential Achilles heel in their bullpen this week. The buzz around the blogs is that Detroit's pen is pretty mediocre this season and Tribe fans are all too familiar with the dangers of a shaky bullpen. I've said it elsewhere and I'll say it again: between the bullpen, the ERA wrecking crew that is Dontrelle Willis, a lack of depth, and some serious regression on offense, Detroit is not as good as people think they are this season. We'll see if I'm still right come October.

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