Stats aside, Weaver longs for postseason return
Righty hopes to set Halos on course with fourth straight Opening Day start
ANAHEIM -- Last year's regular-season finale -- a meaningless, blowout loss in which he gave up two first-inning runs and then stopped pitching -- can teach you a lot about Jered Weaver.
The Angels came into that game with nothing to play for. They were mathematically eliminated two days earlier, their much-hyped season already a wash, but Weaver himself had plenty to gain on that sleepy Oct. 3 afternoon. He had already won a career-high 20 games and thrown his first no-hitter, once again putting himself squarely in the American League Cy Young discussion, and this was his chance to leave a lasting impression on those who vote for an award he has long deserved.
W: Lowe L: Hoover SV: Frieri
Thing is, he didn't really care.
"I wanted to win the World Series," Weaver would say later. "Once we found out we were out of it, I was kind of out of it, too."
Major Leaguers will often say they're only concerned about team-oriented achievements, but few truly live it like the Angels' ace. So don't talk to Weaver about all the success he's had over the last three years, while putting himself among the elite pitchers -- and best bargains -- in all of baseball. He doesn't want to hear it.
A 2.73 ERA and 573 strikeouts in 648 2/3 innings? Big deal.
Three straight trips to the All-Star Game and three top-five finishes in AL Cy Young Award voting? Yeah, so what?
A Major League-leading 1.03 WHIP, a third-ranked .608 opponents' OPS and a 3.36 Fielding Independent Pitching score? English, please.
Weaver sees only one number in that 2010-12 span: zero. As in, the amount of postseason games his Angels have played.
"I don't really need to enjoy what I do, or what I've done over the last three years, when it doesn't really mean anything when we don't make the playoffs and don't make a run in the playoffs," Weaver says. "It's great. You guys like to look at it and say, 'Oh, he's one of the best pitchers in baseball.' I don't look at it like that. I just know we haven't accomplished our goal."
When Weaver takes the mound on Monday, at Great American Ball Park against the Reds at 1:10 p.m. PT, it will mark his fourth consecutive Opening Day start. It will also serve as an indication of the quiet consistency the wiry right-hander has achieved -- the type of year-in, year-out production that almost makes you take what he brings for granted.
Los Angeles Angels
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"There's no way you can take for granted what 'Weave' has done," his career-long manager, Mike Scioscia, said. "We certainly don't. He's one of the top pitchers in baseball, and I think a big reason for that is his consistency. He's been there pitch in and pitch out going on seven years now."
Since his debut on May 27, 2006, Weaver has been a rock in Anaheim. He's won 102 games with a franchise-leading .662 winning percentage, ranks fourth in club history with a 3.24 career ERA (through a minimum of 1,200 innings), is the eighth Angels pitcher to surpass 1,000 career strikeouts and is the only one to begin his career with 10 or more wins in each of his first seven seasons.
There's an ironic challenge to staying consistent -- you have to keep it fresh, continually make adjustments and perpetually evolve to maintain your perch at the top.
"If you stay one way in this league," Weaver said, "the talent of the hitters is going to catch up to you quickly."
This year, Weaver is returning to his old arm slot. It's a subtle change, indistinguishable to the naked eye, but it is different. Over the last three years -- ironically, his best three years -- Weaver has compensated for some shoulder woes by delivering the ball a little more over the top. Now, he's at a natural three-quarters again.
Returning to his old arm slot doesn't mean he'll throw in the mid-90s again. But it could allow him to sustain his low-90s velocity throughout an entire outing, make him even tougher on right-handed hitters and give him more movement on his two-seam fastball.
In other words, it could make Weaver -- gasp! -- even better.
"Now that I have a little bit more range of motion in my shoulder, the arm kind of just lays like it should and comes through like it should," Weaver said. "It's not going to be a big difference, but from a feel standpoint, it feels a lot better and it feels natural."
Weaver is among the longest-tenured Angels and one of three players -- along with middle infielders Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick -- remaining from their last trip to the postseason, offering a rare link to the last two eras of franchise history.
He's been around long enough to witness a drastic change in clubhouse faces -- from John Lackey, Chone Figgins and Garret Anderson to Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton -- and a noticeable spike in national relevance.
He's been around long enough to get really antsy.
"I was obviously spoiled my first couple years because we were winning all the time," Weaver said. "I got that taste in my mouth of winning, and it hasn't gone that way the last few years. Whatever we have to do, whatever I have to do, to get us back to our main objective -- and that's win a World Series -- is all I'm focused on. Individual stuff, I don't really care for."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.