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Westbrook on schedule

By Sheldon Published: February 27, 2009

Most players with long-term disabling injuries don't hang around the ballpark once they finish their rehabilitation workouts.

Jake Westbrook was the exception Wednesday, when the Indians began their exhibition season at their new ballpark.

‘‘I stayed for the first couple of innings,’’ Westbrook said. ‘‘I mean that was the first game ever in this stadium.’’

Westbrook's sense of history-making events includes his own career, which came to a crashing interruption last summer, when he learned he needed surgery to reconstruct his right elbow. The operation, he recalled, was performed June 12. He is not expected to return to the rotation until about midseason, though the road back has gone smoothly.

‘‘I'm out to 120 feet on my long toss program,’’ Westbrook said. ‘‘I feel great. I'm getting close (to throwing off the mound), real close. Hopefully, it will be next week, depending on how I feel.’’

Tribe officials insist that Westbrook won't be rushed into returning, even if he feels great.
‘‘All I've been told is that Tommy John takes 12 months to come back from,’’ he said. ‘‘And it takes 18 months to get back to where I was.’’

GOOD AS IT GETS ` Victor Martinez crushed a change-up and a fastball in his two at-bats, both drives clearing the right-field fence for home runs in the Tribe's 5-3 win over the San Diego Padres at Goodyear Park.

That's as many homers as Martinez had all last season, when he was sidelined for months with an elbow injury and a strained hamstring.

‘‘I don't really pay attention,’’ he said, referring to the home runs. ‘‘As soon as the season is over, it's over. They already paid me for last season. But it means a lot to me to get on the field and be healthy.’’

Martinez does not pretend to be ready for the regular season, but he was pleased with his plate appearances Friday.

‘‘I put two good swings on the ball,’’ he said. ‘‘I'm just trying to get my rhythm and timing. It was not fun (last year). You don't enjoy the game when you're hurt. I wanted to do this, and I wanted to do that, and I couldn't do anything.’’

FIRSTS ` Ryan Garko, learning to play left field just in case, made his first outfield start and caught a ball on the track. ‘‘I saw it fine,’’ he said. ‘‘But the toughest thing is to go back on the ball. I think I'll be OK out there.’’ Garko misplayed a double into a triple in the first inning, because he was stationed too far from the left-field line.‘‘I just kind of followed everyone else into the gap,’’ he said. ‘‘But I went too far.’’ . . .Fausto Carmona made his spring debut and worked two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out one. ‘‘He was aggressive on the plate like he has to be,’’ manager Eric Wedge said. . . . Rafael Betancourt retired the side in order in his first spring appearance, striking out one.

ON THE HILL ` Closer Kerry Wood, who has been sidelined for a few days with a sore back, threw a bullpen Friday, as scheduled.

MARCHING ONWARD ` The Indians go on the road for the first time this spring with a game this afternoon in Phoenix against the Oakland Athletics. Carl Pavano will make his initial start of camp against Dallas Braden. In the Tribe bullpen will be Scott Lewis, Rafael Perez, Edward Mujica, Matt Herges, Vinnie Chulk, Rich Rundles, Greg Aquino and Jack Cassel.

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