Michaels will stay with the Indians for two more years

CLEVELAND – Jason Michaels’ first season in Cleveland’s outfield didn’t go the way he had hoped. He’s getting two more to make up for it.

Michaels, who struggled as the Indians’ regular in left last season, finalized a $4.25 million, two-year contract yesterday, a deal that includes a $100,000 signing bonus and $2.6 million club option for 2009.

Michaels had been eligible for salary arbitration, but agreed to terms last week pending a physical.

“I’m excited about it,” Michaels said. “I want to be here as long as I can. I love this organization from top to bottom.”

Cleveland’s affection for Michaels was less certain following 2006. The 30-year-old was a platoon player with the Phillies, who dealt him to Cleveland last January. He was given the Indians’ starting job in left and batted a career-low .267 with nine homers and 55 RBIs – not bad statistics, but not the ones he and the Indians expected.

“I was disappointed in myself,” he said. “I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was. I don’t know if it was putting too much pressure on myself or switching leagues or what. I know it can’t happen again.”

The right-handed hitting Michaels we’ll share the position and at-bats this year with David Dellucci, a lefty who agreed to an $11.5 million, three-year deal with the Indians in December.

Newly acquired Trot Nixon and Casey Blake will split games in right. Blake, too, will play first base.

Manager Eric Wedge is happy to have Michaels back and expects more production from him now that he has settled in.

“He’s going to be stronger this year having gone through all that stuff last year,” Wedge said. “He’s a good piece for us.”

Michaels looked tan and fit – he’s almost 20 pounds lighter than a year ago – as he and several other Indians players got ready for a five-day promotional tour of Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

“I’m still not used to this weather,” said Michaels, who lives in Florida during the offseason. “I came in last night and it was like 22 (degrees) out. Welcome to Cleveland.”

Cold or not, Jake Westbrook wouldn’t mind making it his permanent home.

The steady right-hander is in the final year of his contract after the Indians exercised a $6.1 million option in October. Westbrook, who has 44 victories the past three seasons, will begin contract talks with the Indians during spring training.

“I hope we can work something out,” he said. “I’m comfortable here and it means a lot to be comfortable. As someone who has been traded three times, I know how tough it can be to start over somewhere.”

Westbrook doesn’t have a feel for how serious talks could get with the Indians, who are also interested in signing Travis Hafner and C.C. Sabathia to long-term extensions.