Jered Weaver has been the certified ace of the Angels staff this season, serving up a terrific encore to his 2011 Cy Young runner-up campaign. Entering Monday, Weaver was 6-1 with a 2.61 ERA and a WHIP under one. He’s been the rock for the rotation during a stormy opening month and a half, and has put himself in the running for the 2012 Cy Young. That makes Monday’s mishap all the more troubling.
Weaver took to the hill on Monday facing off with the New York Yankees. He would give up a pair of singles and another hit off an Erick Aybar error before landing awkwardly off the mound on a pitch to Yankees clean-up hitter Robinson Cano. Weaver doubled over in pain as the trainers checked him out. He tried a warm up pitch, but was barely able to get it to the plate before limping off the field, leaving the game before recording an out. Bobby Cassevah came in to replace him.
Initial reports speculated that it was a leg injury that knocked Weaver from the game, but the team later confirmed that Weaver had actually tweaked his back. Initial tests did not reveal anything and an MRI will be done in the next day or so. It’s unclear what kind of damage the lanky Weaver did to his back, or if it will result in time on the DL.
If Weaver is forced to miss significant time, it could be a major blow to the Angels turnaround. Weaver has been the one dominant starter in a rotation that has been underwhelming to start the season. Dan Haren has been up and down, Ervin Santana can’t keep opponents in the yard, C.J. Wilson has been excellent, but not really dominant, and Jerome Williams has been a pleasant surprise just being pretty good. Losing the ace at the head of the rotation would be a major blow to the hottest team in baseball.
What will the Angels do if they lose Weaver? Garrett Richards, one of the Angels top prospects, is waiting in the wings at Triple-A Salt Lake. He was vying for the fifth starter spot before the team decided to wait on Jerome Williams to return from his hamstring injury and sent Richards down to get a bit more seasoning. As we pointed out on his birthday, though, he hasn’t exactly been dominating the minors this season with a 4.31 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 29 walks, including 23 in his last six starts, in 56.1 innings of work.
Other options for the team to call up include Brad Mills, who saw some starts last season with Toronto and is 3-3 with a 3.76 ERA this season with Salt Lake. They could recall David Pauley who has plenty of experience as a starter, making 20 starts over his five-year career. If the team calls up a bullpen arm instead, the team has long relievers Bobby Cassevah (who got the look last night) and Hisanori Takahashi, but neither of them could be considered a viable option beyond the occasional spot start.
But if the injury proves to be serious, could the Angels jump into the running for Roy Oswalt? Rumors are circulating that Oswalt will sign with a team this week, with the front runners including Texas, Boston, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Could a Weaver injury be the push that Arte Moreno needs to enter the race for Oswalt in the 11th hour and make him an offer he simply can’t refuse? It worked when courting Albert Pujols, why not Oswalt?