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CLEVELAND—The Indians have a lot more questions than answers with their pitching staff heading into the 2010 season, which could provide plenty of opportunity to young pitching prospects.

Cleveland is counting on righthander Jake Westbrook, who hasn't pitched in nearly two seasons due to a slow recovery from Tommy John surgery, and enigmatic righthander Fausto Carmona.

Rookie lefthander David Huff posted a 5.61 ERA in 23 starts last year, but he should again assume a spot at the back of the rotation.
Beyond that, the Tribe will rely on a handful of young pitchers for the final 
spots in the rotation.

The Indians have stockpiled young, inexperienced pitchers through trades along with a few homegrown talents in righthanders Hector Rondon, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Knapp and lefty Nick Hagadone. Those players will be expected to contribute soon but may not be ready for the big leagues.

That leaves righty Justin Masterson as the most likely contributor in the rotation for 2010. Masterson struggled in his transition from reliever to starter last year, going 1-7, 4.80 in 10 starts. Yet until Rondon, Carrasco and others prove they're ready for the majors, Masterson will have to try to hold his own as a starter.

That leaves the final spot up for grabs among righthander Mitch Talbot, a Triple-A veteran picked up from the Rays in December in the trade of catcher Kelly Shoppach, and retreads like Jeremy Sowers, who like Talbot is out of options, and Aaron Laffey.

There's plenty of pitching in the Indians farm system, but it's probably not ready to fill the gaping holes in the 2010 rotation.

SMOKE SIGNALS

• The Indians traded lefty Zach Jackson to the Blue Jays for a player to be named. Jackson spent most of 2009 at Triple-A Columbus, where he posted a 6.05 ERA in 100 innings.

• The Indians hired Joe Kessler as their major league strength and conditioning coach.