CARDS EXTRAS

Cards Notebook: Westbrook slims down

2012-02-21T00:40:00Z 2012-02-22T10:04:58Z Cards Notebook: Westbrook slims downBY JOE STRAUSS • jstrauss@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8371 stltoday.com

JUPITER, Fla. • Jake Westbrook hopes to bring more to the Cardinals' rotation this year by bringing less of himself into camp.

Offering arguably the most dramatic physical transition of any player since the team's World Series parade, Westbrook arrived last week at Roger Dean Stadium at 210 pounds, 20 pounds lighter than when he became the winning pitcher in the Cardinals' epic Game 6 win over the Texas Rangers.

Westbrook, who is entering the second installment of a two-year contract that also includes an option for 2013, embraced a lifestyle change in hopes of extending his career.

"It's amazing how much lighter you feel with 20 pounds off your body," Westbrook said Monday. "It becomes so much easier to carry yourself every day."

Westbrook carried more weight last season than at any time in his 12-year major league career. The added pounds took a toll as he deals with plantar fasciitis in his left foot as well as occasional hip discomfort.

Team injury-and-performance consultant Dr. Clayton Skaggs designed a dietary and conditioning program for Westbrook, who traveled at least monthly from his Georgia home to St. Louis this offseason to consult with Skaggs.

"The main thing is eating better," said Westbrook, now committed to a no-carb, low-carb diet. "I'd always had trouble gaining weight until three or four years ago. But age creeps up on you. I need to focus on eating a little better. It helped a lot. I feel great now."

Westbrook, 34, struggled for consistency last season.

He managed a 12-9 record despite an unimpressive 4.66 ERA, his highest since dealing with elbow issues for most of the 2002 season with the Cleveland Indians.

Former manager Tony La Russa reassigned Westbrook to the bullpen in the division series against the Philadelphia Phillies, then dropped him from the NLCS roster against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Westbrook returned as the replacement for Kyle McClellan in the World Series and received the win in Game 6 in return for a scoreless 11th inning.

"Last year certainly wasn't my best season," Westbrook said. "My goal is to pitch better this time around. I feel better. When you feel better, it's easier to be confident in yourself."

Boggs in better shape

Reliever Mitchell Boggs is fully participating in camp activities after struggling with back issues for much of last season.

Boggs, 28, can engage in a complete throwing and conditioning program while managing a bulging disc that first evidenced itself last spring. Boggs became unavailable for more than a week in March after back spasms forced him from an appearance March 4. He returned to endure a difficult season that included a brief option to Triple-A Memphis and a shot to alleviate his lower-back pain.

"I'm in a lot better place now than then," Boggs said. "I'm doing exercises to help stabilize the area. It really hasn't been an issue. I just want to keep it that way."

An overcrowded right side of the bullpen will place a premium on staying available throughout camp.

The Cardinals probably will alleviate the numbers crunch at some point because seven righthanders are vying for five bullpen slots.

Matheny thanks La Russa

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny made sure his first day on the field began with a message of appreciation to his predecessor.

Responding to a question about whether he'd reached out recently to La Russa, Matheny acknowledged that he had taken time to convey his thoughts before leading the team's first official workout Sunday.

"It's got to be a strange place in life for him," said Matheny, who played five seasons for La Russa in St. Louis. "I know he's excited about the challenges that lie ahead, and whatever he decides to do I'm sure he's going to do with excellence. But I just wanted to say, 'Hey, we're thinking about you.' I also thanked him for everything he's done personally for me in the past and for this organization."

Matheny described La Russa's response as 'short and sweet."

La Russa was expected to arrive Monday night at the Detroit Tigers' spring headquarters in Lakeland, Fla., before reaching Jupiter next week.

La Russa is scheduled to attend functions connected to the Honda Classic golf tournament and plans to swing through Cardinals camp for at least one day.

This is La Russa's first spring training out of uniform since 1962.

Et Cetera

Center fielder Jon Jay walked into camp Monday. Left fielder Matt Holliday also arrived. Third baseman David Freese traveled from St. Louis on Monday.

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