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10/18/10 10:00 AM ET

Q&A: Westbrook healthy, interested in returning

Potential free agent looking forward to offseason without rehab

ST. LOUIS -- Right-hander Jake Westbrook spent the vast majority of his Major League career with the Indians before being traded to St. Louis in July. He pitched well for St. Louis, his 4-4 record not revealing anything close to the truth about how well he threw the ball.

As the winter approaches, Westbrook is the Cardinals' most important potential free agent, and the club has initiated talks to bring him back. Shortly before the season ended, he sat down with MLB.com to talk about how things went for him with St. Louis, how his surgically repaired elbow is feeling and what may be in store for him in the future.

MLB.com: Do you feel like you gained some traction over the last couple months? It seemed that you pitched here the way that you pitched before you got hurt.

Westbrook: I definitely think so. Like I've said before, you can only control the things that you can control. I always tell myself, get deep in the game, give your team a chance to win, and that's all you can really control. If you do that, then you can feel good about the way you pitched. Obviously, you want to go out there and win ballgames, but you want the team to win the game, first and foremost. We had opportunities a lot of the times I pitched, and that's really all you can ask for.

MLB.com: Do you think you're significantly better now than you were early in the year, when you were first coming off surgery?

Westbrook: I think as far as being consistent, yes. I had some decent ballgames here and there, but I wasn't very consistent. I'd pitch well, and then I'd pitch just so-so. I'd be getting deep in the ballgame, but I'd give up four or five runs, which is not very good. So I feel like I've gotten more consistent as the year has gone on. Early on, not having pitched for two years, I didn't use that as an excuse, but I felt like I was going to gain it back in time. And I have. I'm most excited about how my arm has felt, about how I've been able to handle getting back to throwing close to 200 innings again. I keep telling myself, if you make every start and you get to that 200-inning mark, you're in a lot of ballgames. I feel like I've been able to do that.

MLB.com: How big a part of what you were able to do in St. Louis was simply being further away from your operation?

Westbrook: Yeah, I think that's the main thing that it is. I think it's kind of me getting back to finding my mechanics again. When you do that, you're able to be more consistent, instead of trying to find that arm angle and that rhythm that you're used to. I think that's what it is, coming back and getting used to going out there every five days. When you do that, you get all your bullpens in, (and) you're only going to get better. You're going to get more consistent with your mechanics, and I think that's what the case has been.

MLB.com: How big a deal is it for you that you're going to have a normal winter, with no rehabilitation?

Westbrook: I think it's going to be huge. First and foremost, I'm excited about being home and seeing my family. When I got traded, my wife was about a month away from having a baby, so she wasn't able to be here. So that's what I'm looking forward to the most, being with them.

But not to have to worry about my right arm, that's exciting for me to know that, and it's exciting the way I felt this year, knowing that it's going to be another offseason for me to be away from that surgery.

MLB.com: When was the last normal winter you had?

Westbrook: Before the '08 season, it was kind of normal. I had been feeling some discomfort the last two or three years before that, but it was just kind of one of those things. But to feel the way I do now, to go out there and not even worry about that, just worry about getting ready. Not worry if my arm is going to be able to handle this season. With the way it's felt this year, I have no doubt that I'm going to be able to handle the load again and hopefully get back to that guy that I was in '04, '05, '06.

MLB.com: How much have you thought about next year?

Westbrook: Not too much. It's not a bad position to be in. Free agency is a good thing if you're healthy, and I'm looking forward to that.

MLB.com: Do you think your time in St. Louis served as a kind of audition?

Westbrook: It's been good. It's been good for me. I kind of went into this year thinking that if I stay healthy and make all my starts, it could be an audition for whoever. I'm excited about how I performed and how healthy I've been.

MLB.com: Does that go in both directions?

Westbrook: Definitely. I think that's the good thing about getting traded, coming to a club like this, is getting to know these guys and getting to know this organization. It definitely is going to help out in my process in free agency.

MLB.com: Is St. Louis a place that would be on your radar?

Westbrook: Definitely, definitely a place I'd like to be. And that's what makes this offseason exciting.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.