Westbrook eyeing niche for Redbirds
Posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 7:00 pm
By R.B. FALLSTROM
AP Sports Writer
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Former NL Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter is on track to be the St. Louis Cardinals’ opening day starter, former 20-game winner Adam Wainwright is back from reconstructive elbow surgery, Jaime Garcia is a top left-hander and underrated Kyle Lohse led the staff in victories and ERA.
Then there’s the slimmer, trimmer Jake Westbrook.
The 34-year-old sinkerballer was inconsistent last season, then virtually unused during the postseason. He shed 20 pounds at the team’s urging and wants to show he can be counted upon.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed,” Westbrook said. “If that opportunity comes about again, I want to have the year where they have confidence to throw me out there. I have a lot of motivation, especially as I’m getting older, to get back to where I’m capable of pitching.”
Westbrook’s 12-9 record was accompanied by a 4.66 ERA and 1.51 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning), and he was bothered by plantar fasciitis on both feet. He was left off the roster for the division series and NL championship series and was the unlikely World Series Game 6 winner after working an inning of relief in the Cardinals’ wild comeback victory over the Rangers.
Two weeks with no carbohydrates melted 14 pounds, and nutrition along with an altered training regimen took care of the rest.
“It was club encouraged,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He looks good. Obviously, he’s lost some weight but he’s also put on some muscle mass, so that’s a great combination.”
Westbrook, who’s entering the final year of a two-year, $16 million deal, said he’s down to 210 pounds for the first time in perhaps a dozen years and feeling a lot lighter on his feet. He’s hoping it translates to an increase in confidence, and a better bottom line.
“If something’s bothering you, you’re not focusing as much as you possibly can on what you’re trying to do. As I’m getting older, I want to give myself every opportunity to prolong my career, and I don’t want to have any regrets that I didn’t do everything possible,” Westbrook claimed.
The other spots are so solid that general manager John Mozeliak declared early in camp that the Cardinals out of the competition for free agent Roy Oswalt.
Carpenter was just 11-9 last year, but won 10 of his last 12 decisions after struggling with command the first two months or so.
Then he was 4-0 in the postseason, and beat the Rangers on short rest in Game 7 of the World Series.
At 37, he’s been setting the tone in spring training. Matheny said the opening day nod is not official but added that’s the plan.
“The guy’s an animal,” Matheny said. “That’s the guy we want people following.”
Published in The Messenger 2.28.12