ANAHEIM, Calif. — Fingers are crossed. If the Angels are lucky, nothing is seriously wrong with Jered Weaver.
If there is, it could be a worrisome loss.
On a night of historic importance for the franchise, Weaver tweaked his lower back in the second inning of the Angels’ 5-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. He was forced to exit before the start of the third inning, but there remains a chance he can make his next start.
Only time will tell.
"I’m pretty confident I can come back" in five days, Weaver said Monday night after the Angels won their 11th consecutive home game, one shy of tying the club record set in 1967. "I don’t think it’s going to linger around too long."
Of course, backs can be tricky. The last time Weaver had an issue with his lower back, in 2012, he went on the disabled list. This isn’t as bad, he insisted, but the Angels have to be prepared.
For one thing, it could force changes in their rotation. Matt Shoemaker, who replaced Weaver in the third inning, is scheduled to pitch Thursday in Texas. He could still make that start after throwing 61 pitches against the Blue Jays, although manager Mike Scioscia called him a "longshot."
"I feel like I definitely would be able to (start), but at this level you want to be in the best physical shape you can be in," Shoemaker said. "I feel like I’d be fine, but I don’t say to say I’ll be fine until tomorrow."
The victory was a milestone for the Angels, who evened their all-time franchise record at 4,272 wins and 4,272 losses. The last time the team was .500 was in its first season in 1961 when it was 1-1.
Hard to believe, but the Angels are only the 13th team out of 30 major league franchise currently with a .500 or better record all-time.
More important than that, however, is whether Weaver will miss any time. He said he felt his back when he was reaching for a comebacker off the bat of Toronto’s Adam Lind in the second inning. He got the next batter to end the inning but felt his back tighten in the dugout.
"I went back in the dugout and tried to stretch it out, but it tightened up pretty bad," he said. "I tried to go out there and throw a couple of (warm-up) pitches and see if it loosened up, but there was no sense pushing it any further than I needed to."
After the game, he said his back was "about 80 times better" than when he left.
Scioscia said, "For Weav to come out of a game, you know he’s hurting. He wanted to continue to try to pitch, but no way we can take a chance right now where we are and how well he’s throwing the ball."
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Scioscia went to the mound, Weaver exited, and Shoemaker â well, he was nowhere to be found. While Scioscia stood on the mound waiting for him to enter the game, the right-hander was headed for the bullpen rather than the field.
Shoemaker ran into the clubhouse to retrieve his glove, then made his way down a tunnel to the bullpen, figuring Weaver would start the inning. But the Angels needed him right away.
Asked how they found Shoemaker, Scioscia said, "Eventually, he just found us."
Shoemaker, who pitched Friday night, went 3 2/3 relief innings and gave up two runs, but the Angels scored four times in the fifth. Four other relievers — Joe Thatcher, Jason Grilli, Kevin Jepsen and Joe Smith — combined throw 3 1/1 scoreless innings.
Scioscia called Shoemaker’s stint "a really gritty performance."
Weaver put it this way: "For him to step up and do what he did was pretty spectacular. It goes a long way. Awesome job."