It's hard to blame Jake Westbrook for being eager to get back to the Majors with St. Louis. The Cardinals, after all, have the best record in the big leagues at 40-22.
After his latest rehab outing with Class A Peoria on Sunday, he could be ready for the return.
The 35-year-old, who missed most of May and, so far, all of June, after tweaking his elbow, made his second Minor League rehab appearance after an outing with Double-A Springfield on Tuesday.
The right-hander turned in an encouraging effort for the Chiefs on Sunday, yielding a run on four hits without issuing a walk while striking out five in seven innings in a 9-1 win over the Quad Cities River Bandits.
"I felt great out there tonight, even better than last outing which is encouraging," Westbrook said after the game. "It's one of those things where hopefully this will be my last start before I make a start in the big leagues. That's where I want to be."
The most likely return for Westbrook would appear to be during St. Louis' three-game series at Miami beginning June 14.
"With how I felt tonight that would probably be the case," he said. "It's not a definite but that's what we're leaning toward. Hopefully that'll happen and I'm looking forward to it. It all depends on how they want to match up the rotation. But my next start being in the big leagues is all I'm worried about."
Westbrook has been a fixture in the Cardinals rotation since coming over from Cleveland in a July 2010 trade.
Last season he went 13-11 with a 3.97 ERA, striking out 106 and walking 52, in 174 2/3 innings. The notorious ground-ball pitcher had began his 2013 season on a hot streak, holding down a 1.62 ERA in 39 innings through his first six starts.
"The way I was pitching before I got hurt was encouraging, I hope to pick up right where I left off. I feel strong, feel confident, so hopefully I can do that," he said.
Westbrook added after Sunday's outing his elbow felt healthy.
"[My elbow] feels real good. [After] throwing my bullpen before the game and getting up and down seven times, the way I felt out there in the seventh inning was good. I'm excited about it."
In his Texas League rehab appearance Tuesday, he held Arkansas to a run on six hits while striking out five in 3 2/3 frames in Springfield's 4-2 loss.
On Sunday, the Chiefs found their offense from first baseman Jeremy Schaffer, who hit his first two homers of the season.