As he came off field from his scoreless inning of work Sunday, Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook asked teammate Carlos Beltran for the baseball from the final out and then waded through hugs and backslaps in the dugout. It had the air of a goodbye, even if it wasn’t.
“Pretty much,” Westbrook said later. “You never know.”
Westbrook, 36, started and pitched one inning against the Cubs on Sunday to end his regular season and, perhaps, appear for the final time on the mound in a Cardinals uniform. Westbrook’s contract has a mutual option for the 2014 season, and the veteran sinkerballer acknowledged after the game that he can do the math on his struggles and the Cardinals’ stockade of young pitchers.
“Just the fact that you don’t really know what my future is as far as baseball goes,” Westbrook said. “Obviously, I’d love to come back here, but I’m not really sure. We haven’t even discussed that. With all the young guys they have, it’s kind of tough seeing (that).”
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The Cardinals hold a $9.5 million option for 2014, and if they don’t exercise it they owe him a $1 million buyout. Westbrook said Sunday that he would welcome a chance to rework his deal to return to the Cardinals.
The club does not expect to put him on the postseason roster, and Sunday’s game was his first start since Aug. 21. The five members of the rotation they’ll take into the postseason are under control for 2014, with Jaime Garcia also set to return from shoulder surgery in the spring.
Westbrook finished a season riddled by injuries and inconsistent performance with a 7-8 record and a 4.63 ERA in 21 games (19 starts). He joined the Cardinals at the trade deadline in 2010 and in 3½ seasons has gone 36-32 with a 4.27 ERA in 93 games (91 starts).
The righty has previously expressed an interest in pitching in 2014, but he said Sunday that he would have to talk with his family this offseason and gauge his health before deciding.
“Whatever happens, who knows?” he said.
FREESE RESTS AGAIN
Third baseman David Freese received both weekend games off to rest for his presumed start Thursday in Game 1 of the National League division series. Freese homered Friday and hit .277 with a .404 slugging percentage in his final 14 games. He insisted Sunday that he’s healthy enough to play, just getting a break to maintain the swing he has for the postseason after what he labeled a disappointing year.
“This isn’t anything to get overanalyzed. It’s one of those things — rest for a couple days,” said Freese, who finished the year with nine homers and 60 RBIs in 138 games. “Statistically I feel like I was playing a lot better (in September). It’s been a frustrating year. I’ve been so close to doing so much better. That’s how I can describe it.”
The finale’s crowd of 44,808 brought the season total for tickets-sold attendance to 3,369,769, the fifth-largest total in franchise history. The Cardinals drew 3 million fans for the 10th straight season and the 17th season in franchise history. The Cardinals have long described their payroll as a reflection of their attendance, and the team budgets its expenses around drawing between 3.2 million and 3.4 million each summer. ...
Before the game, Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. presented Matt Carpenter with a Rolex watch to commemorate his 55 doubles this season, which broke the club record for a lefthanded hitter set by Stan Musial. ... Cardinals coaches opted not to script a way for Chris Carpenter to take the field Sunday for an ovation as they decided it might imply he was retiring, something the righty has not officially said he plans to do. “There will be a time to do the right thing for him,” Matheny said. ... Jon Jay extended his hitting streak to a personal-best 14 games with a single in the first inning.