Brotherly love: Weavers set to match up
Sibling rivalry won't play into pitching story of Halos-Dodgers
ANAHEIM -- Gail Weaver would like to make one point perfectly clear as her sons prepare to share the pitching mound at Angel Stadium tonight.
This is not Jered Weaver vs. Jeff Weaver. There is nothing even remotely resembling a sibling rivalry between the sons of Dave and Gail Weaver.
"I can assure you of one thing," Gail said, emphatically, over the phone from her home in Simi Valley, Calif. "Jered will pull for Jeff, and Jeff will pull for Jered. That's the way it's always been. One game won't change that."
At 6 p.m. PT -- in a game that will be streamed live via the MLB.com At Bat 2009 application on the iPhone and iPod touch devices and on MLB.TV -- the Brothers Weaver will be engaged competitively for the first time: Jeff dealing for the Dodgers, Jered for the Angels. It will be the eighth time in Major League history brothers have gone head-to-head, with Phil and Joe Niekro accounting for nine of the 20 total meetings.
Dave and Gail Weaver -- talented athletes in their own arenas back in the day -- will be in the stands, applauding each out and cringing a little with each baserunner.
"We'll be pulling for a scoreless game through seven, eight innings," Gail said. "Let the bullpens come in and decide it.
"They always say it's a pitcher vs. another pitcher, but I never look at it that way. It's Jeff against the Angels, Jered against the Dodgers. Given their age differences" -- Jeff is six years older -- "they've never really had to compete against each other, unless you count Wiffle ball."
Jeff is 32, Jered 26. When Jeff was selected in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft in 1998, 14th overall, Jered was primarily a basketball player at Simi Valley High School.
There hasn't been a brotherly affair like this since Andy and Alan Benes met on Sept. 6, 2002. Andy and the Cardinals prevailed over Alan and the Cubs, 11-2. Andy, 4 1/2 years older than Alan, claimed the win while his brother absorbed the loss.
|Since 1967, brothers have been opposing pitchers in 15 Major League games.|
|*Perry received a no-decision|
Hall of Famers Phil Niekro and Gaylord Perry and two others likely to reach Cooperstown -- Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez -- went head-to-head against brothers.
The Dodgers' Ramon Martinez and the Expos' Pedro Martinez went at it on Aug. 29, 1996. Big brother Ramon claimed a spirited 2-1 pitchers' duel, Pedro going nine innings, Ramon eight.
The Dodgers were involved in one of the first brother vs. brother matchups in 1926 when Jess Barnes pitched for Brooklyn against Virgil and the Giants.
Greg and Mike Maddux faced off twice, in 1986 and '88, Greg with the Cubs, Mike with the Phillies. Greg was the winning pitcher in 1986, Mike absorbing the loss, but the elder brother evened the score two years later.
The Niekros engaged each other for the first time in 1967 and for the final time 15 years later. Phil was in a Braves uniform on each occasion, with Joe representing the Astros five times and the Padres and Cubs on two occasions each.
Pat and Tom Underwood dueled in 1979, Pat for Detroit, Tom for Toronto. Gaylord Perry (Cleveland) and brother Jim (Toronto) met in 1973. Virgil and Jess Barnes matched skills five times in a three-year period, starting in 1924.
And now it's Jered and Jeff Weaver.
"It's a chance to share the same mound on the same day and not many can say that," Jeff Weaver said, essentially echoing his mother's sentiments. "It might be a little easier like this at the American League park rather than having to hit against each other. There would be more talking between us afterward. It comes down to each guy facing each other's lineup."It's a moment we won't forget. It's pretty special regardless of the outcome."
Weaver said his parents had planned to attend the wedding of a relative in Temecula, Calif., an hour's drive from Angel Stadium.
"I wouldn't want to be the people sitting around them during the course of the game," Jeff said.
Nobody has a keener insight into this dynamic than the person who brought Jeff and Jered into the world.
"They stay in contact quite a bit," Gail said. "I'll call Jeff, and he'll say, `I just watched Jered's game -- he was great.' Then I'll call Jered, and he'll talk about Jeff, how he's doing.
"Jeff is ecstatic about Jered and the way he's taken off this season. Everybody wants to think there's some kind of animosity between them for some reason, but that couldn't be any further from the truth.
"There is no sense of, 'I hope I out-do him.' They have formed a brotherly bond that Dave and I are thrilled to see."
While Jeff (3-1, 3.72) is making his fourth start of the season and 11th appearance, Jered has busted out in his fourth season as a dominant starter.
Jered is 7-2, his 2.08 ERA second in the American League to the Royals' Zack Greinke. Weaver's 90 2/3 innings are eighth in the AL, and he's seventh in strikeouts with 74. He is the toughest pitcher to hit in the league, holding opponents to a .203 batting average.
"Jered has really matured," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. "He has learned how to make adjustments, and he's getting deeper in games."
Kid brother Jered's initial reaction when he heard that Jeff appeared to be the Dodgers' choice for tonight was expressed in characteristic manner, with a bemused detachment.
|"There is no sense of, 'I hope I out-do him.' They have formed a brotherly bond that Dave and I are thrilled to see."|
|-- Gail Weaver, mom of Jeff and Jered|
Jeff and Jered were Angels teammates in 2006, Jeff having signed over the winter as a free agent as Jered was emerging as a top-shelf prospect, making waves through the farm system.
It didn't pan out, but 2006 turned out to be an amazing journey by any measure for the entire Weaver family.
Struggling to find his rhythm and command Jeff was 3-10 with a 6.29 ERA when he was shipped on July 5 to St. Louis in exchange for Terry Evans.
Jered, in effect replacing his big brother for manager Mike Scioscia, was stunningly successful. He won his first nine decisions -- something that hadn't been done since Whitey Ford arrived in the Bronx 55 years earlier -- on his way to going 11-2 with a 2.56 ERA.
With a fresh start in St. Louis, Jeff took flight for a World Series championship team, contributing in all three postseason series. He started and won the decisive Game 5 of the World Series against the Tigers with eight masterful innings.
Jered was along for his big brother's excellent adventure.
"That was one of the best experiences of my life," Jered said. "To be able to see Jeff pitch those big games and get a ring. ... it was something neither of us will ever forget.
"It was an emotional time for both of us. Maybe one of these days he'll be there watching me win a ring with the Angels."
Dave and Gail Weaver never planned to have both their sons emerge as professional athletes.
"We've been surprised every step of the way," Gail said, "right up until they were both drafted."
Six years after Jeff was the 14th overall pick, Jered was taken No. 12 overall, the Angels' top choice in 2004.
A late bloomer in baseball, Jered excelled, like his dad, in basketball. Mom had been a hurdler and sandlot softball player. Jered put it all together on the mound at Long Beach State after choosing not to follow his brother's path to Fresno State.
Under the tutelage of Long Beach State pitching coach Troy Buckley, now a pitching instructor in the Pirates organization, Weaver raised his arm slot, gained about 20 pounds in Alaska's summer league after his freshman year, and became one of the most decorated college pitchers in history.
"Jered was extremely coachable," Buckley said. "He just took off when he was with us. With his spirit and his athleticism, he had all the tools. It's been a pleasure watching him evolve and become the pitcher he is."
Jered said his primary and enduring influences are his parents and brother.
"Obviously, I looked up to him tremendously," Jered said. "He came up to the big leagues when he was 21, and I was this 16-year-old kid hanging out in the clubhouse. I didn't know what I wanted to do then.
"He gave me a jersey of his to wear, No. 36. I went out to the outfield for batting practice at old Tiger Stadium and fans were yelling at me, thinking I was him. That was pretty funny.
"Walking through those halls, thinking about all the legends who had played in that old park ... that was pretty cool. I was struggling in high school in baseball at the time; I wasn't good by any means."
Jeff revels in his role in Jered's ongoing development. Kid brother is on schedule to being the first Weaver to appear in an All-Star Game.
"I'm very proud of him, no doubt about it," Jeff said. "It means a lot to me that maybe I helped him along the way. You want your sibling to do better than you did."
This one day will be the notable exception.