CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians quickly took care of some
business following a disappointing season by exercising contract
options for 2007 on steady starter Jake Westbrook and utilityman
Casey Blake on Tuesday.
The club also declined a mutual option with third baseman
Aaron Boone, making him eligible for free agency.
Westbrook and Blake were consistent in a season when the Indians
won 15 fewer games than in 2005 and missed the playoffs for the
fifth straight year.
"They kind of picked up their own options," general manager
Mark Shapiro said. "Jake is the epitome of a dependable, reliable
guy. We know what to expect from him every season."
Westbrook won 15 games for the second straight year and the
Indians rewarded the right-hander by picking up his $6.1 million
option. The 29-year-old has pitched 216, 211 and 211 innings the
past three seasons.
Even with the Indians' playoff hopes long faded, Westbrook
finished strong. He went 8-3 with a 3.94 ERA in August and
September to end up 15-10 for the season.
Westbrook added $250,000 to his option by exceeding 200 innings
in a Sept. 24 start and then added another $250,000 by eclipsing
210 innings in his final outing on Sept. 30.
Relying mostly on a nasty sinker, Westbrook is 44-34 since
becoming a fixture in the club's rotation in 2004. His 55 walks
this season were a career-low.
Blake's versatility the past few years has made him one of the
Indians' most valuable players and made it easy for them to pick up
his $3.75 million option. He was the club's everyday third baseman
in 2003 and 2004 but was switched to the outfield after the Indians
In 2005, he played 138 games in the outfield and filled in at
third and first. However, he batted only .241 and hit a paltry .085
(5-for-59) with runners in scoring position.
Blake bounced back in 2006, batting a career-high .282 with 19
homers and 68 RBI in 109 games. His season was twice interrupted
with stints on the disabled list. He strained a side muscle in June
and sprained his right ankle in early August.
Depending on what they do in free agency or through trades,
there's a chance the Indians could platoon Blake at first and in
right field in '07.
"He gives us great flexibility to plan for the team next year
and at any juncture," Shapiro said.
Boone batted .251 with seven home runs and 45 RBI in 104 games.
He spent most of the last two months on the bench as the Indians
gave Andy Marte the bulk of playing time at third.
"One of the classiest individuals I have been around," Shapiro
said of Boone. "It was a tough couple of years for him."