Throw a lot of grounders, get yourself a new deal in advance.
That worked for Jake Westbrook. The St. Louis Cardinals righthander, a sinkerball specialist who’s had an up and down career thanks to injuries, landed a 2013 contract with a mutual 2014 option. The money terms weren’t announced at this writing.
Westbrook through today is 12-9 on the season with a 3.50 ERA and, significantly for a sinkerballer, a 73 percent ground ball rate and a National League-leading 22 double plays induced.
A Montreal Expos product, Westbrook was dealt to the New York Yankees for 2000 before he ever saw action for the ‘Spos, in the deal that made a Yankee out of Ted Lilly as well. Westbrook had a shaky Yankee beginning before he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for David Justice, who helped the Yankees to their 2000 World Series win.
Westbrook as an Indian was compromised by injuries (ribs, elbow, Tommy John surgery) whenever he looked like he’d live up to his promise, though he did lead the majors in double plays induced in 2006, with 35. The Indians traded him to the Cardinals in a three-way, non-waiver deadline swap in 2010 that made a San Diego Padre out of Ryan Ludwick; Westbrook showed enough to get a two-year deal with the Redbirds after 2010.
That deal included a mutual 2013 option which was turned into a brand-new deal. It was Westbrook who nailed the win in Game Six of last year’s World Series, which the Cardinals won in extra innings and in surrealistic style to boot.
Westbrook’s money pitch is a sinker that hits as high as 91-92 mph, but he also throws a good changeup (to lefthanded hitters, mostly), a good curve ball (to righthanded hitters, mostly), and a slider that often breaks like a cut fastball.