Former New York Yankees right-hander Jake Westbrook has developed into a cornerstone of the Cleveland Indians rotation - and has been on the mound for two of the Yankees’ ugliest losses in recent years. On Tuesday, he’ll take the ball at Yankee Stadium as New York tries to move past another painful defeat.
Westbrook made three appearances for the Yankees in 2000 before being traded to the Indians for outfielder David Justice - a move that was instrumental in New York winning its fourth World Series title in five years that season. Westbrook, though, has provided a return on the deal for his current team, winning at least 15 games and throwing more than 210 innings in each of the last three seasons.
The 29-year-old right-hander signed a three-year, $33 million contract with Cleveland (6-3) during the offseason.
“It’s a good feeling to have, kind of a weight off my mind,” Westbrook, 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in two starts this year, told the Indians’ official Web site. “I can just go out there and worry about pitching and not think about anything.”
Westbrook is 2-2 with a 3.69 ERA in eight appearances against the Yankees, and his last game against New York came July 4, when he gave up one unearned run in seven innings of a 19-1 Indians win at Jacobs Field. The lopsided loss came on the 76th birthday of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
The defeat was New York’s worst since a 22-0 blowout by Cleveland on Aug. 31, 2004 at Yankee Stadium - also started and won by Westbrook, who went seven innings and struck out five with no walks.
The sinkerballer will be facing a Yankees team that returned from Oakland following a stunning loss Sunday. Star closer Mariano Rivera allowed a three-run homer to Marco Scutaro on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth inning to give the Athletics a 5-4 victory and the series win.
“I was shocked,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
The loss sent New York home after going 3-3 on its road trip. The Yankees (5-6) had Monday off to bounce back from the long flight, Sunday’s disheartening defeat and playing 24 innings in splitting the first two games of the A’s series.
Rivera should also have a good chance to rebound during this series, as he’s converted each of his last nine save opportunities against the Indians. He’s 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA and 21 saves in 24 chances against Cleveland.
Before Rivera gets another chance to nail down a lead, the Yankees will try to get to Westbrook, who allowed three runs in six innings of a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday at Milwaukee’s Miller Park. Two of the runs Westbrook allowed, including one on a wild pitch, scored in the sixth.
“I felt a lot better than my last start,” Westbrook said, “but I didn’t do my job in the sixth inning.”
The former Yankees prospect will be opposed by a current one, left-hander Chase Wright, who was recalled from the minors to start when Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano joined fellow right-hander Chien-Ming Wang on the disabled list Sunday.
Wright, 24, went 1-0 while throwing seven scoreless innings in each of his two starts at Double-A Trenton this season, allowing four hits and a walk with 19 strikeouts. The Yankees hope he can give them a strong outing in his major league debut with three-fifths of their starting rotation on the DL.
“You’re pretty much bringing in the person who’s doing the best at the time,” Torre told the Yankees’ Web site. “We just decided that we saw enough of him to feel good about what (Wright) brings to the table.”
The Indians have gone 2-1 in each of their three series so far, defeating the Chicago White Sox 2-1 on Sunday despite getting only one hit. Cleveland scored two unearned runs in support of C.C. Sabathia, who threw eight dominant innings.
New York’s Derek Jeter is batting .368 (7-for-19) and Jose Posada is 4-for-12 with a homer and six RBIs against Westbrook.
The Yankees won two of three at home against the Indians last year and took the season series 4-3.