JUPITER, Fla. -- In his second-to-last start of the spring, Jake Westbrook's biggest nemesis turned out not to be the Mets' offense, but rather the onset of fatigue.
Pushing toward the 90-pitch mark for the first time this spring, Westbrook said he felt himself tire in the last of the six innings he pitched in Sunday's 10-7 loss to the Mets. That led to a clear dip in command.
After facing only 19 batters in the first five innings, the righty labored against seven in the sixth. He started to fall behind in counts and allowed the Mets to push across two runs on three hits and a walk.
"I hate to admit that, but I did [tire]," Westbrook said. "But that's what Spring Training is for, to get to that limit and to push myself and get into that 90-pitch count range."
In a regular-season game, manager Mike Matheny would have relieved Westbrook mid-inning. But with a week left of Spring Training, pitch counts, not the game outcome, remain the priority. Westbrook ended the inning with a pitch count of 87.
"We could see that he hit a wall, but we needed [him] to push through that wall," Matheny said. "I thought he did a nice job. I was really impressed with his stuff early on. He had nice pop on the ball, real good sink, ground balls were there."
Indeed, Westbrook looked sharp early. He allowed only two hits in the first five innings and induced a healthy dose of ground balls, evidence of an effective sinker. Westbrook will start the Cardinals' last Grapefruit League game on Friday for his final spring tuneup.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.