After rocky 1st, Jered Weaver comes back strong in return to the Angels.


As you have been reading over the past two weeks Angels veteran right-hander Jered Weaver was working his butt off in order to work his way to Anaheim and the Angels starting rotation.  After two rehab starts in San Bernardino over the past 10 days, Weaver finally reached the Angel Stadium mound for the first time in nearly two months.  The result was very positive. Weaver shook off a tough 1st inning that saw him throw 31 pitches while giving up two runs, as he battled back over the next four innings looking like the Weaver who won 18 games in 2014.  The 6’7 righty limited the Orioles to just one hit over the next four innings while striking out 7 Orioles with a variety of breaking balls with some fastballs in the low to mid 80’s mixed in here and there.  By the time Weaver exited after 5 innings his pitching line read 5 innings pitched 4 hits, 2 earned runs, no walks to go along with the aforementioned 7 strikeouts. So how did the ultra-competitive Weaver feel about his first major league action in 7 weeks. “Those last four innings were money, I was able to keep my weight back and rush the ball over the plate,” Weaver who threw 85 pitches with 64 being strikes and 21 balls which is a stellar three to one strikes to ball ratio said. “I just stayed within myself, and everything mechanically felt good after that. I was able to make some pitches when I needed to.”

The only problem Weaver had in those final four innings was self-inflicted as with two outs in the 5th inning manager Mike Scioscia and trainer Rick Smith had to be summoned to the mound, because Weaver’s right thumb was bleeding due to a cut.  The cut most likely occurred when Weaver threw his circle-change one batter earlier as the thumb started bleeding more steadily while facing the Orioles Manny Machado. Smith worked on Weaver for close to five minutes trying to get the bleeding to stop so Weaver could continue and finish the inning. Once Scioscia and Smith left the mound, Weaver battled back one more time throwing four more pitches to Machado getting him to ground out to third to end the inning and Weaver’s day on the mound. “He cut himself right there sometime while throwing a pitch, and it was cut pretty deep, it was bleeding pretty bad,” Scioscia said. “He was able to come back and finish the inning.”

Scioscia did not hesitate when he said that Weaver will have no problem making his next start. In a somewhat prophetic statement Angels television analyst Mark Gubicza gave his insights on what Weaver needed to do during a pre-game interview. “Jered needs to try and contain his energy today.  It is a marathon race and you want to run out of the blocks as fast as you can, but the key is for him to pace himself,” Gubicza who pitched years in the majors said. “the first inning will dictate a lot, but if he gives up a few runs he can’t let a negative mindset start, he just has to fight his way through it.” Weaver did just that on Sunday. Weaver was able to bounce back after a 31 pitch first inning that saw seven men come to the plate, retiring five of the next six Orioles hitters using only 19 pitches.  By doing so it allowed Weaver’s total pitch count to stay at a more reasonable 50 pitches through three innings so that he could work deeper into the contest.

Even more impressive is what Weaver did in the fourth inning as the 32-year old struck out the side getting Matt Wieters, Jonathan Schoop, and Jimmy Paredes.  This was the first time since June 26th, 2014 that Weaver had struck out all three batters in an inning. Thanks to a David Murphy three-run homer in the bottom of the 3rd inning Weaver left the game in line for the victory as they Angels led 4-2. “There really wasn’t any difference he was only one pitch away from getting out that first inning, he had Chris Davis with two strikes and came in with the fastball and just hit him.  If we get him there with a strike and might get out with no damage, so we were literally one pitch away there,” Angels catcher Chris Ianetta said. “He gave us five innings with the lead and chance to win that’s all we can ask for. Every time he takes the mound we just want a chance to win and he does that. He is a veteran guy with a veteran presence and he did that today. It was a definite boost to the team to have him back on the mound today.”

Scioscia reiterated what Ianetta said about Weaver. “It was a big boost for us as he is one of our leaders, but it is tough to be a leader sitting on the bench,” Scioscia said. “When he is pitching well the guys rally around that and he did that today.” Unfortunately for the Angels and Weaver Cory Rasmus came in for the 6th inning and couldn’t hold the lead giving up two solo homers to Gerardo Parra and Chris Davis which tied the game at four. The score stayed that way thanks to three strong performances from the bullpen, first by Fernando Salas who struck out four of the seven batters he faced in the 7th and 8th inning. Salas was followed by Huston Street who worked around a Schoop Single to record a scoreless 9th and then rookie Trevor Gott came in and pitched a scoreless 10th and 11th inning.

In the bottom of the 11th catcher Carlos Perez who came in the game in the 9th inning for Iananetta hit a double into the left-field corner to lead off the inning.  Johnny Giavatella attempted to bunt Perez over, but bunted the ball foul with two strikes for the strike out.  Kole Calhoun followed with another strike out.  Then things got interesting as Orioles manager Buck Showalter decided to leave lefty Brian Matusz in the game walking both Mike Trout and Albert Pujols intentionally to loaded the bases, so that Matusz could face the left-handed hitting David Murphy instead.  Murphy made the Orioles and Showalter pay for that strategy as he drove a 3-2 fastball over the head of David Lough for a game-winning walk-off single. “When something like that happens (walking two guys to get to him), it adds a little fuel to the fire and your competitive nature comes out and you really want to come through in that situation,” Murphy who went 3 for 6 with a home run and 4 RBI’s said. “I turned to C.J. (Cron) and said if they get Kole out here, are they gonna walk both of those guys to get to me. And sure enough they did it. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before. I got a pitch up and middle and that’s a hot zone for me.  Praise the Lord, the ball fell.”

Angels left fielder David Murphy (19) hits a walk off single in the 11th inning of the game. Murphy hit a three-run homer in the 3rd inning as well.  Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

David Murphy (19) celebrates with first baseman Albert Pujols (5) after hitting a walk off single in the eleventh inning of a 5-4 Angels win. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports.

Murphy’s heroics made a winner out of Trevor Gott (2-0) and it gave the Angels a series victory over the Orioles and a 4-2 home stand which helped the Halos pull within one-half game of the first place Houston Astros. The story of the day though was Weaver’s return to the mound for the Angels. Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker who has been mentored by Weaver since coming up to the big leagues in late 2013 was excited to see his friend and mentor back on the mound. “It’s great to have him back as he is a great presence to have around the clubhouse,” Shoemaker who has been strong since Weaver went on the DL going 1-1 with a 1.69 ERA in his last 6 starts said. “We know what he can do. As a staff we feed off each other which helps to get ourselves better.”

Angels first baseman Albert Pujols echoed Shoemaker’s thoughts on Weaver’s return. “Oh Jered man he is our ace, him getting back is a plus for us especially right now as we are in the pennant chase,” Pujols who is the third-longest tenured Angel behind Weaver and Erick Aybar said. “He could have easily won that game today, but it was it is sometimes things don’t go the right way. It’s awesome he is a warrior man, he is going to give everything he has to for this ball club.  He doesn’t complain man, he goes out there and freaking pitches and pours his heart out to help us to win.” Pujols added about Weaver’s leadership. “It’s great to have him back as he is one our leaders.  Even when he was hurt he was in the dugout pumping us up and helping us any way he could. Jered is very important to us.”

Now the Angels will hit the road for seven games against the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City.  Weaver will pitch again Friday against the Royals which Angels bench coach Dino Ebel said will really tell the story of for Weaver. “What will be most important for Jered is his next couple of starts after today,” Ebel said. “He had a lot of adrenaline today, but we will see how he feels and how effective he is the next time he takes the mound.” For the Angels sake hopefully Weaver will continue to improve with each outing. “It’s nice to be able to contribute again and help the team,” Weaver said of his outing Sunday. “I was kind of itching to get back out there, and I think I let the emotions get the best of me and I was kind of erratic. But I was able to stay within myself and make some pitches.  It was a good one to work off of.” Scioscia agreed with Weaver’s assessment. “His arm stroke looked good, I think there;s more left in there that he’ll get, but he was hitting his spots easy.  Hopefully he’ll build off of this.”

Jered Weaver (36) walks through the dugout past Angels manager Mike Scioscia (14) after getting out of the first inning jam. at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Videos from yesterday’s post-game interview with Mike Scioscia and Albert Pujols.