ANAHEIM, Calif. – If the choice had been his, Jered Weaver probably wouldn’t have given his right arm a few days off. He would have kept pitching every fifth day, no matter how badly he felt — even if it meant throwing less than his best.
This isn’t a time when players like to take time off – not in September, when the season is nearing its end and playoff positions are at stake. The best players insist on being in the lineup, or in the rotation, and if they’re sore or achy or injured in some way, they would prefer to play through it. There’s a whole offseason to recover.
That’s how Weaver felt. His right shoulder was tight and he was a little sore, but he didn’t want to miss even one start. No way. Not now.
The fact the Angels convinced him to visit the team doctor and miss one turn in the rotation to recover from shoulder tendinitis is a decision they may remember fondly one day. Weaver pitched for the first time in 11 days on Thursday, and suddenly everything seemed right again.
He was, without question, at his very best, shutting out the Oakland A’s on two hits over seven innings in a 6-0 victory that steadied his team after it had dropped the first thee games of the series.
“Obviously, we didn’t want to get swept,” Weaver said. “Things didn’t go the way we wanted them to the first three games. These guys are playing real good baseball. You can’t take them lightly.”
He was talking about the A’s, not about his team, which is still contending for an wild card spot in the American League but won’t advance without some help. While the Angels’ win over Oakland was welcome, so was the Baltimore Orioles’ 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, who slipped behind the Angels in the wild card race.
The win moved the Angels 3 1/2 games out of the second wild card slot, but they’re in a position now where winning alone won’t be enough. They must also hope that one of the teams ahead of them, currently the A’s or Yankees, also lose.
“Every game is important,” Weaver said. “We’re trying to go out there and win every game and see what happens.”
It’s not the best of places to be, but at least the Angels know they’ll have their ace taking the mound. Weaver had been out of sorts for his past five starts, bothered by tendinitis that he had worked through in the past but that wouldn’t go away this time.
He could have continued pitching, but he also knew he would be far from his best – certainly not the pitcher who was 15-1 with a 2.13 ERA through Aug. 6. In fact, in the five starts he made with his ailing shoulder, he was 1-3 and had given up 20 earned runs in 29 1/3 innings.
“Weav would pitch until his arm falls off,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “There’s not a pitcher in the major leagues in September that’s taking the mound that doesn’t have some kind of inflammation or some kind of stiffness. And Weav has pitched with that for a while. But it had gotten beyond that to point where it affected what he needed to do on the mound to compete.”
The only solution was to take time off for rest and treatment, and Weaver finally gave in. He didn’t want to, but he also realized it was the only solution to getting his arm back to full strength, or close to it.
“I was antsy to get out there, no doubt about it,” he said. “It was disappointing to miss a start, but luckily it was only one and I was able to get healthy again. It was fun to get back out there.”
Most important, he felt fine before, during and after the game, reporting no recurrence of the tightness. He’ll be back out there in five days and is slated to make four more starts the rest of the season.
They could be big for the Angels, who play three road games at Kansas City starting Friday before returning home for nine more games – three each against Texas, the Chicago White Sox and Seattle.
With Weaver out there, they have to believe there’s a chance.
“It was very uplifting to have Weaver come back and do what he did against a pretty hot team,” said Torii Hunter, whose homer in the seventh broke a scoreless tie and started a six-run inning. “He was able to pitch very well against those guys and shut them down.”
The Angels will need more of Weaver down the stretch. Without him, the playoffs are probably out of reach.