Weaver has promising start against Royals
ANAHEIM – In the ninth inning Friday night, with the game finally well in hand, Angels starter Jered Weaver was ready to keep pitching.
But manager Mike Scioscia did the right thing. He told Weaver no way.
"He's got a lot of starts to go," Scioscia said. "We wanted him to come out of the first one feeling good, and he did."
On their opening night, the Angels rode Weaver to a 5-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Angel Stadium. For all the buzz about their newest player, Albert Pujols, the Angels relied on an old hand to get their first win of the season.
This is nothing new. Weaver won 18 games last season, 13 the year before that and 16 in 2009. He's steady, confident and seemingly always in control. When you come to see him pitch, you expect nothing less than a striking performance.
Weaver expects it from himself. That's why he wanted to keep going after throwing 97 pitches and getting five runs from his offense in the eighth inning. Most pitchers gladly hand the game to their bullpen and accept handshakes from their teammates.
Not Weaver. He was ready to close out his own game.
"I guess it's just the competitive side of me," he said. "I don't ever want to give the ball up. I want to pitch until the wheels fall off. Obviously, the guys put up five runs there and Scioscia put the kibosh on it. It's all good.
"It was very understandable. We'll see what happens next time."
Scioscia said he was prepared to send Weaver out to pitch the ninth "on a short leash" if the game was still tied, but the Angels broke through against Royals relief pitcher Aaron Crow, sending 10 batters to the plate and getting a key bases-loaded triple by Erick Aybar.
The long inning convinced Scioscia to call for left-hander Scott Downs to pitch the ninth.
Weaver struck out 10 batters, becoming the first Angels pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1975 to strike out 10 or more in a season opener.
Last season, he led the majors with 17 starts in which he threw seven or more innings and gave up one run or less, so this amounted to business as usual. But to see this kind of performance on opening night was incredible.
"This is the way he pitched all year," Scioscia said, referring to 2011. "We know he's going to give us a chance to win when he takes the ball. I don't think you put that much pressure on a person and expect him to do what he did every time out of the gate, but he has the capability to do it. He pitched to his capability tonight."
It's a testament to Weaver's ability that he found ways to get outs even when he had occasional troubles. In the third inning, he gave up leadoff singles to Brayan Pena and Alcides Escobar, then proceeded to strike out the top of the Royals' batting order: Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer.
He retired 13 in a row until the seventh when Jeff Francoeur hit a one-out double to left field. But with Yuniesky Betancourt at bat, Weaver picked off Francoeur.
Weaver had a 5.40 ERA this spring, but Scioscia dismissed it as unimportant, reminding everyone that numbers mean little. Then Weaver proved the point.
In his last start, he threw six workmanlike innings against the Chicago Cubs, giving up three runs and smoothing out his mechanics.
"That last (spring) start, you want to treat it just like a big league game – mixing stuff in, throwing off-speed stuff in fastball counts," he said. "I was able to do that. (The Royals) chased a couple of sliders and I got away with some pitches, but (catcher Chris Iannetta) was throwing down the right fingers and we were pretty much on the same page the whole day."
Iannetta, acquired last winter in a trade with the Colorado Rockies, seemed to be in synch with Weaver the entire night.
"For me to be able to catch a guy like Weave was awesome," he said. "Anything I put down he pretty much threw. We got on the same page early and that was fun."
And it was just the start.