GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — As Jake Westbrook ran sprints in the outfield grass, a Cleveland fan leaned over the railing in right field and offered his critique.
"Hey, Jake," the man hollered. "Great outing."
Westbrook smiled. "Thanks," he said.
One more step in the comeback complete.
Westbrook, whose career was nearly ended by an elbow injury, outpitched two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, Shin Soo-Choo homered off San Francisco's ace and Travis Hafner drove in three runs on Tuesday, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 7-1 exhibition win over the Giants.
Penciled in by new manager Manny Acta to be the Indians' opening-day starter, Westbrook allowed one run and two hits in four innings. It was his best outing this spring and a huge confidence builder for the right-hander, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008.
"I was just throwing strikes with all my pitches, getting ahead and pounding the zone," the 32-year-old said. "I was able to do that. I was being very aggressive and when I'm aggressive and throwing strikes it makes all of my pitches that much better. For me right now, it's just fine tuning my command."
Westbrook hasn't pitched in a major league game since May 28, 2008, but that didn't stop Acta from picking him to open the season on April 5 in Chicago.
"I can't take it back anyways," Acta said with a laugh. "I made my decision based on his track record and how good he was in the past when he was healthy. If he was healthy, there was no hesitation in doing that. He's gotten better each outing. The ball is coming out of his hand really good. He's feeling great. He's going to have his ups and downs, but right now he's throwing well."
Lincecum, who followed up his Cy Young season in 2008 by winning another award last season, allowed four runs and four hits in four innings. He walked four and struck out four.
His line was consistent. His pitches were not.
"A couple of balls just got away from me," Lincecum said. "Other than that, I'll try to take something away from this. My body still feels good. The velocity on my fastball is getting a little bit better. It's coming out of my hand better. I know I had three or four walks, but it's spring training."
Lincecum allowed a home run by Choo in the first and gave up a two-run double to Trevor Crowe in the fourth. Although he has a 9.39 ERA during the exhibition season, the carefree 25-year-old isn't worried and came away pleased with his performance.
"I felt fine," he said. "I had a couple rough innings. You want to get those out of the way before the season starts."
It was Choo's first homer of the spring and just the seventh in 11 games for the power challenged Indians, who hit 161 last season — 83 less than the league-leading New York Yankees.
Hafner hit a three-run double in the seventh to make it 7-1. It was Hafner's first extra-base hit, and the fact that he pulled it to right-center was an encouraging sign for the Indians, who are hoping he can find his power stroke after hitting just 16 homers last season.
"It's good to see, but we like that he's taking pitches," Acta said. "He's seeing the ball well and he's very confident with his hands and shoulders. If he's 100 percent healthy, he'll produce for us."
NOTES: Giants CF Aaron Rowand remains sidelined with a strained left quadriceps. Manager Bruce Bochy said Rowand could miss a few more games. Rowand is batting .500 (12 of 24) this spring. ... Indians 2B Mark Grudzielanek made a diving catch to rob Giants DH John Bowker of a potential base hit in the second, and Giants RF Eugenio Velez went into foul territory to make a diving catch of a fly ball by Cleveland's Lou Marson in the bottom half. ... Acta said there's no timetable for closer Kerry Wood's return. Wood is bothered by soreness in a back muscle.