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04/25/08 7:05 PM ET

Injury dampens Westbrook's hot start

Offseason work ethic adds to disappointment of muscle strain

CLEVELAND -- In light of the left oblique strain that cost him six weeks of the 2007 season, Jake Westbrook stepped up an already diligent offseason conditioning program this past winter.

And yet he once again finds himself on the 15-day disabled list, this time with an intercostal strain suffered last Saturday in Minnesota.

"That's the frustrating thing, is you try to prevent stuff like this, and it keeps happening," Westbrook said. "It may be from me trying to do something different with a pitch in a certain spot. I need to stay in my mechanics that I use all the time. I get in a little trouble when I get used to doing something I'm not used to doing."

What Westbrook was doing this time was trying to run a fastball down and in to Mike Lamb on a 2-2 count in the seventh inning. Right when Westbrook threw the pitch, he felt the strain, but it wasn't distracting enough to prevent him from getting the last two outs of the inning and his outing.

But when Westbrook played catch the next day and still felt discomfort, he knew he was in trouble. He returned to Cleveland for an MRI, and he remained here all week getting treatment.

The Indians expect Westbrook to miss two to four weeks. It's too early to tell which end of that spectrum this injury will fall on, though Westbrook said he has felt better as the week has progressed.

"I hope it's as soon as it can be," he said. "It may get to a certain point where it doesn't continue to get better. Hopefully, it continues to get better and it will be closer to two weeks. But you never know. I don't know how my body's going to react to this."

Last year's oblique strain came in May, after Westbrook had turned in a disappointing April. Doubling the frustration this time around is the fact that Westbrook, contrary to what his record would indicate, was having an outstanding month. He was 1-2 with a 2.73 ERA in four starts.

"It's pretty frustrating, because of just how good I was pitching and how well I felt and how confident I was," Westbrook said. "But hopefully, it won't be as long as last year and I can start back with the same confidence that I had before it. That's what I'm looking for."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.