Starting pitcher Jake Westbrook has announced his retirement from baseball on Friday, according to Rob Rains of StL Sports Page. The right-hander was a free agent this winter but chose to hang up his cleats when he did not receive a convincing offer to come back for another season.
Westbrook pitched for three teams over a 13-year major league career. He was drafted in the first round by the Colorado Rockies in 1996 but was traded twice before debuting in the majors for the New York Yankees in 2000. After pitching in three games for New York, he was dealt to the Cleveland Indians and appeared in more than 200 contests for the Tribe over the next nine seasons. His last stop came in St. Louis after the Cardinals acquired him in a deadline deal in 2010.
In his interview with Rains, Westbrook spoke about his decision to retire and his desire to spend more time with his family:
"The interest that I was getting wasn't significant enough for me to go through the grind of another year and be away from my family. I was kind of 50-50 on whether I wanted to play anyway. I'm good with the decision...I'm excited about the next part of my life and that's being home with the kids and my wife Heather..."
The 36-year-old Westbrook was the definition of a league-average starter during his career. His overall numbers in 315 games (273 starts) featured a 105-103 record, a 4.32 ERA (96 ERA+), 12.8 bWAR, four shutouts and four seasons with at least 200 innings. His career highlights include a victory in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, which he earned by pitching a scoreless 11th inning against the Texas Rangers, and a 2004 season in which he finished third in the American League with a 3.38 ERA and earned his only All-Star berth. In addition to the ring he won with the Cardinals in 2011, he was also a part of the World Series champion Yankees in 2000 (although he didn't pitch in the postseason that year).
A look at Westbrook's transaction logs provides a brief walk down memory lane for fans who have followed the game over the last 20 years. After drafting him in '96, the Rockies dealt him to the Montreal Expos for infielder Mike Lansing. The Expos shipped him to the Yankees with Ted Lilly in exchange for Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu in 1999, and New York flipped him to Cleveland the next summer as part of a deadline deal for David Justice. The Georgia native reached St. Louis via a three-way trade in which the Cardinals sent Ryan Ludwick to the San Diego Padres.
Westbrook is not the only familiar name to call it quits this winter. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera's retirement received plenty of press over the last year, and Cy Young winners Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter were forced to step away due to injuries. Starting pitcher Andy Pettitte retired (again), as did slugger Lance Berkman and longtime infielders Michael Young, Mark DeRosa and Jerry Hairston. Westbrook was teammates with both Carpenter and Berkman in St. Louis, and briefly with Rivera and Pettitte in New York.
Said Westbrook, while reflecting on his career (via Rains):
I've been super blessed with the opportunity I was given out of high school in 1996, not knowing what to expect as an 18-year-old kid from a small town," Westbrook said. "I was blessed to play the game I love for as long as I did and to have the support I have gotten, first and foremost from my wife Heather. I know my oldest boys will remember a good part of it. It's been fun.