Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 3/6/12
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook debuted a new windup Tuesday in his first Grapefruit League appearance of the spring. In hopes of avoiding tipping his pitches and letting the hitters know what was coming, Westbrook stopped bringing his glove all the way above his head during his motion last year. But his new glove placement was too low last year and the right-hander struggled to find consistency. So this spring he's raised his glove to about chest high and keeps it there until he takes the ball out to throw it. "There were reasons I wasn't having success because guys knew all the time what was coming," Westbrook said. "I struggled a little bit with my mechanics as far as not going over my head and not keeping set down low, but this year I moved it up here a little bit to try and get that rhythm a little better and found that comfort zone where I can repeat that delivery." And it was just one outing, but the results were positive. Westbrook threw two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and two walks in an eventual 8-6 Cardinals loss to the New York Mets at Digital Domain Park. Westbrook allowed a single and walk in the first inning but was helped when catcher Yadier Molina threw out speedster Jordan Valdespin from his knees when he attempted to steal second base. The right-hander worked around a two-out walk in the second inning, finishing with two strikeouts in an efficient 30-pitch outing. "I think the first one I'm really just looking for how I feel and I feel strong," Westbrook said. "I feel really good. The walks obviously aren't something I want to continue to be a pattern but for the way I felt and the stuff I had, it was pretty good for the first one out. "It definitely feels good to put up zeros. That's kind of what you want as a pitcher, to continue to put up zeros. For the first time out, to throw a couple of scoreless innings was a good start." It was a much better debut than Westbrook's first start last spring, when he gave up two runs on five hits in two innings against the Mets. He struggled to find a feel for his sinker last spring and posted a 4.44 ERA in starts. The slow start carried over into the regular season, where he went 12-9 but had a 4.66 ERA in 33 starts. He was left off the roster for the National League Championship Series before returning to be the winning pitcher in Game 6 of the World Series. After enduring what he called a battle for most of last season, Westbrook hopes to build positive momentum this spring that he can carry with him into the start of the year. "He's been very consistent staying on top of the ball and getting more tilt, than side to side," said manager Mike Matheny. "That's going to be a big key for him, getting the ground balls. He knows he's going to pound the zone in general. It's just one of those feel things, getting out there the first time and getting it out of your system." Westbrook allowed too many base runners last year and struggled with high pitch counts, causing him to be removed from games in the fifth and sixth innings instead of the seventh or eighth. He hopes to lower his pitch count this year by getting hitters to swing at his sinker earlier in the count. But he has to get ahead in the count first, for the plan to work. "Without a doubt," Westbrook said. "That's what I'm trying to do, being aggressive down in the zone and getting ahead so that it keeps the hitters on their toes and makes them have to swing the bat. "I felt strong. I felt real good. It's a good starting point to take what I got out of today and learn from it and work on some things and try to get back to being more consistent in the zone." And he hopes the new, higher glove placement contributes to his success. He's been feeling it out in his bullpen and live batting practice sessions and was pleased with the results Tuesday. A consistent, repetitive arm slot and delivery is key for any pitcher. But for someone who relies on the feel of his sinker as much he does, being able to repeat his delivery will be a big key to Westbrook's success. "I had a couple instances where guys told me we had your pitches and things like that," Westbrook said. "Carp and those guys do a good job of noticing that. I'm definitely not using that as an excuse by any means but its definitely something that puts you at an disadvantage when they know a certain pitch is coming when you do certain things. "That's where I want to get to, where everything looks the same and I can just go out there and pitch and work on repeating my delivery." Tuesday appeared to be a good start towards that.
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