Jake Westbrook, NCAA bracket aficionado

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westbrook posing.JPGJake Westbrook may have missed the entire 2009 season due to Tommy John surgery, but that doesn’t mean he’s off the map in Cleveland. 

The right-hander clinched a “Celebrity Bracket Challange” over the weekend hosted by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, beating out local VIPs like the Browns’ Josh Cribbs, the Cavaliers’ Mo Williams and Kosta Koufos, a former Ohio State Basketball player.  Westbrook’s bracket has only one Final Four team intact — West Virginia — but that’s enough to win most bracket challenges in what has been a wild NCAA Tournament.

For reference: Duke, Butler and Michigan State will be joining the Mountaineers in Indianapolis next weekend for college basketball’s biggest prize.

Westbrook’s prize for winning the Plain-Dealer’s bracket pick ’em?  Well, we’re not sure.  But the right-hander has compiled a 2-0 record and a 4.86 ERA in 16 2/3 innings of Cactus League play this spring and has recaptured his spot atop the Tribe’s starting rotation.  That’s gotta be worth something.

Jake Arrieta to return to Cubs’ rotation on Thursday

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Cubs starter Jake Arrieta has been out over two weeks with a strained right hamstring, but he’s ready to return to action. The right-hander threw a bullpen on Tuesday and it went well, so he will start in Thursday’s series opener against the Brewers in Milwaukee, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports.

Arrieta, 31, returns with a 14-9 record, a 3.48 ERA, and a 157/53 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. If he stays on schedule, he’ll make three starts through the end of the regular season, including the regular season finale on October 1 against the Reds.

Arrieta is expected to max out at 75-80 pitches on Thursday and will ramp up through the end of the month.

Cardinals activate Adam Wainwright from the disabled list

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The Cardinals announced ahead of Tuesday’s series opener against the Reds that pitcher Adam Wainwright has been activated from the 10-day disabled list.

Wainwright, 36, has been absent since mid-August due to a right elbow impingement. The Cardinals plan to use him out of the bullpen through the end of the season. Prior to the injury, the right-hander posted a disappointing 5.12 ERA with a 96/44 K/BB ratio in 121 1/3 innings.

Wainwright is under contract for one more year at $19.5 million before becoming eligible for free agency.