Live from San Bernardino, It’s Jered Weaver!!
By David Rice
Last night while the Angels were playing the Houston Astros in an important final game of their battle for first place, 1,500 miles away Jered Weaver took the mound for the Inland Empire 66’ers for a rehab start. The start was hopefully the final step in Weaver’s road back to Anaheim, which barring any setbacks is scheduled to be next week against the Cleveland Indians.
San Manuel Stadium was a buzz as 3,656 fans arrived early in hopes of getting a glimpse of one of the most popular and longest tenured Angels, Jered Weaver. The game was delayed 30 minutes due to an early evening rain shower, but at 7:34 P.M. Weaver got set to deliver his first pitch to Bakersfield Blaze left fielder Aaron Barbosa which was a 87 MPH fastball for a strike. Weaver retired Barbosa on a grounder to first, but third baseman Tim Lopes followed with a solid single to center. Lopes then proceeded to steal second base and go to third on an overthrow by 66’ers catcher Michael Strentz. Weaver seem to bear down and had Blaze right fielder Tyler O’Neill totally baffled on a breaking ball that seemed to drop from the sky perfectly into the strike zone and Strentz’s mitt, but the home plate Chris Graham didn’t agree calling the pitch a ball. On the next pitch O’Neill lifeted a fly ball to medium centerfield which 66’ers Bo Way caught easily, but his throw home went ten feet over Strentz’s head and Lopes scored easily giving Bakersfield a 1-0 lead.
When asked if his team was nervous, 66’ers manager Denny Hocking said.
“You think they were, wow!,” Hocking said sarcastically. “I don’t think they got over their nerves until about the 6th inning. It’s not every day you get to play behind a major leaguer. I told my guys before the game to go out and play crisp baseball. Next time I need to play relaxed, crisp baseball.”
In the second inning Weaver recorded his first strikeout catching Bakersfield DH Chantz Mack looking with a curve ball. After that Weaver retired the next two batters to retire the side in order. In the third inning Weaver got into a jam. Blaze Justin Seager walked to lead off the inning which was followed by a single to left by Daniel Torres. After a sacrifice bunt by Barbosa put runners at 2nd and 3rd with one out, there was a bit of a scary moment. Lopes lined a ball right back at Weaver who was able to get his glove up to keep the shot from hitting him, but when the smoke cleared Weaver was staring at a bases-loaded one out jam. As he has done so many times throughout his career, Weaver bore down and struck out O’Neill and then got Austin Wilson to fly out to left ending the inning.
“It was nice to get to get the punch out and the fly ball there to get out of that inning and keep the team in the game,” Weaver said.
In the 4th inning Weaver retired the first two batters before walking Rayder Ascanio which pushed his pitch count over the 60-pitch threshold which had been set by the Angels and Weaver’s night was done. In total Weaver threw 63 pitches, 42 strikes and 21 balls, a nice 2-to-1 ratio in pitching 3.2 innings allowing three hits and one unearned run, walking two and striking out two. Overall, Weaver said he was pleased with his start.
“It felt good, good to get back out to get back in the game atmosphere it been close to month now,” Weaver who is 4-8 with a 4.75 ERA in 2015 said. “My timing was a little off got a little amped up there early, but certainly feel good towards the end there, mechanically everything was coming together, so it was positive and a step in the right direction.”
For those of you who are interested the 66’ers rallied in the eighth inning to score two runs on back-to-back RBI singles by Bo Way and Mike Fish (yeah I know first a Salmon, then a Trout, and now the Angels have a Fish in the organization, what’s next a Whale?) to take the lead and they held on to win the game 2-1. After the game both Hocking and 66’ers pitching coach Matt Wise, a former Angels hurler commented on Weaver’s night.
“Jered did a good job and was focused on what he needed to do out there and he executed,” Hocking who has faced Weaver as a member of the Minnesota Twins said. “Jered was great to the guys just hanging out with them before the game. Jered is a great pitcher, but more importantly he is a solid human being.”
Wise echoed Hocking’s thoughts on Weaver.
“Jered did a great job of keeping the hitters off-balanced and he hit most of his spots tonight,” Wise said. “I told our guys that they get a chance to watch a guy they know and respect and see how focused he is out there, and he executed.” One lighter moment Wise shared from the night was when he came to the mound to check on Weaver after Lopes’ line drive went off his glove loading the bases.
“When I walked out there I just told him I coming out to give you a break,” Wise said. “Jered replied, “Thanks I needed that”. He is a true competitor, but overall there was not much I can say to him. I talked to Mike Butcher (Angels pitching coach) earlier in the day and try to make sure he had everything he needed to feel comfortable.”
Weaver overall was very pleased with his performance and said he could have gone even further if he was allowed to do so.
“I still felt good after 63 pitches, 75 or 80 (pitches) was definitely reachable,” Weaver said. “That’s a good sign as well. I wanted to go after that next hitter, but they put you on a strict pitch count, it was good to still feel good in that last inning.”
So in the end Jered Weaver’s rehab start was a success, now let’s see if he can get back to the Angels and help them move toward a playoff berth.
VIDEO from post-game interview from Jered Weaver. Enjoy and post your thoughts.