indians logoThis is an unexpected, frustrating, and disconcerting turn.

The Cleveland Indians today claimed pitching prospect Robert Whitenack off of waivers from the Cubs. Whitenack, who is slowly coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2011, was recently DFA’d and waived to make room on the 40-man roster for Alberto Gonzalez, in the wake of Darwin Barney’s knee cut.

Digest that for a moment. Because Darwin Barney cut his knee in an exhibition game in Houston, and because the Cubs simply couldn’t go without journeyman Alberto Gonzalez (career OPS+: 61), they now lose a struggling, but promising, pitching prospect.

There were reasons to believe that Whitenack was in for a long recovery, of the kind that could smother his career before it really gets underway. He’s already almost two years removed from surgery, and his velocity this Spring was reportedly still in the mid-80s – a serious problem for him. The fact that the Cubs were even willing to DFA him just a few months after adding him to the 40-man roster is telling.

What happens now? Well, my understanding of baseball’s tortured roster rules is that when a player is waived following a designation for assignment, his waiver is irrevocable. That means, if he’s claimed by another team – as Whitenack has been – he’s gone. The Indians clearly thought Whitenack was worth a 40-man roster stash (though they can now waive him, try to sneak him through, and if no other team wants to put him on their 40-man roster, the Indians can then send him to the minors scot free).

Whatever the future for Whitenack and however unlikely his prognosis is for success, this really sucks.* Losing pitching prospects because of a knee boo-boo suffered in a fake game is maddening. Couple it with the fact that the Cubs could have called up, for example, Logan Watkins – who is already on the 40-man and, thus, already using an option year – rather than adding Gonzalez, and it’s beyond maddening.

*(Unless the front office simply thinks Whitenack is done, and was willing to cast him aside regardless of any roster machinations. That is, concededly, a possibility.)

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