Indians pick up options on Westbrook, Blake
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 signed Boone.
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."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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