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Westbrook looking like a prime trade target
Jake Westbrook says he isn't thinking about it.
That's fine. But we are.
Westbrook is a prospective free agent for the Cleveland Indians, and he is performing very well. To wit: He is probably going to be traded on or before July 31.
It has been this way for the Indians since they came within one victory of the 2007 World Series: Lose. Trade. Repeat.
At some point in the next two months, Westbrook seems likely to join C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee in the Cleveland Indians Alumni Association. Westbrook doesn't have a Cy Young Award, like the other two. But accolades don't matter to general managers who want to win pennants. Recent performance does.
And by that measure, Westbrook grades out very high.
Westbrook lasted 7 2/3 innings and beat the Tigers on Tuesday. It was his third win in five starts. In each of those triumphs, he allowed only one earned run.
The right-hander is 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA during that span. He's enjoying his best stretch since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2008.
Just in time for the '10 Rumor Mill to start in earnest.
"I feel like I'm back health-wise, definitely," Westbrook said. "I need to be a little more consistent with each start. As I'm able to get deeper into ballgames, I feel like I'm getting closer to being that guy that I was three or four years ago. That's where I want to be.
"I don't want to be any more than I was. I just want to get back to where I was. I feel like I can have success, being that guy again. Hopefully, this is a building block to being more consistent."
But no, he's not pitching with one eye on the scout seats.
"I'm not thinking about that right now," Westbrook said. "I'm thinking about, first and foremost, (that) I feel great. I'm excited about that."
Westbrook should be of particular interest to other American League clubs. He is currently proving that he can succeed in the more offensive league. Fellow trade candidates Roy Oswalt and Brett Myers, currently employed by the Astros, aren't able to do that.
Westbrook is earning $11 million. Not cheap, but not Oswalt money, either.
Plus, Indians general manager Mark Shapiro proved with Carl Pavano last year that he's not hesitant to trade within the league – or even the division.
Westbrook got 12 outs on the ground Tuesday night. Makes you think he'd be a good pickup for a small-ballpark contender (Phillies, Rangers, Reds).
"He's a veteran, and he throws strikes," one AL executive said. "He's everything you look for if you want to add an arm down the stretch."
One recent development: Cleveland manager Manny Acta pointed out that Westbrook had an excellent cut fastball on Tuesday night. The cutter is a great pitch for Westbrook, because it moves in toward left-handed hitters. It's an ideal compliment for his trademark sinker.
"I need that pitch," Westbrook said of the cutter. "I felt good about it. When that pitch is there for me, and I'm able to throw strikes, I think that will make me a better pitcher."
Even better than he was on Tuesday? If he can do that, you will hear an awful lot about him over the next eight weeks.