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Cardinals begin contract talks with Westbrook

Cardinals begin contract talks with Westbrook

Jake Westbrook's relatively successful dozen starts in St. Louis left an impression on the Cardinals, who were expected to explore a contract extension with the veteran right-hander before he hit the open market next month. Those talks have begun, according to a report from FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal.

The reported discussions arguably reflect the accelerated timetable for this offseason's deadlines. Teams now have until five days after the World Series to sign their own free agents, instead of the 15 days they had in years past. For teams that aren't in the postseason, it places added value on starting discussions in October while the playoffs unfold. That seemingly includes the Cardinals, who already have a laundry list of issues to address.

The team has talks ongoing with manager Tony La Russa on a possible return and just exercised its contract option on Albert Pujols, who could become a free agent next winter if the Cardinals can't re-sign him. But St. Louis also wants a veteran presence in its rotation, and it knows what it has in Westbrook.

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"I think most of us agree, we need a legitimate starter for the rotation, and he's legitimate," La Russa told reporters earlier this month. "The market's going to dictate a lot, but I've read his comments, and I think he's enjoyed his teammates."

The Cards acquired Westbrook from Cleveland on July 31, and while he couldn't pitch them into the postseason, he didn't hurt their chances. The 33-year-old went 4-4 with a 3.48 ERA in his 12 outings, nine of them quality starts. He allowed 70 hits over 75 innings in a St. Louis uniform while striking out 55 and walking 24.

Add in his Indians numbers, and his 10-11 record and 4.22 ERA in 33 starts marked a successful return to health after missing much of the previous two seasons due to Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. Westbrook reportedly underwent shoulder surgery at season's end, but he's expected to be ready for the start of next season.

Where he's pitching at that point isn't certain yet, but Westbrook expressed interest down the stretch in staying in St. Louis. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have a history of re-signing players they acquire in midseason trades, such as Matt Holliday.

"It's worked over and over," La Russa said earlier this month. "People hear that it's a good place to play, and they end up seeing it for themselves."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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