ARLINGTON -- An independent evaluator of the American League West's two powers reasonably might conclude that the Angels have the advantage in top-shelf starters while the Rangers hold the edge offensively and in the bullpen. With the season heading down the stretch and only two games separating the clubs heading into their weekend series at Rangers Ballpark, Angels manager Mike Scioscia decided to throw down his aces -- all three of them. Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver will work the three games against Texas. The Angels clearly hold the edge in two of the matchups behind Haren and Weaver, with Santana vs. C.J. Wilson on Saturday a push.
In order to make the 1-2-3 punch happen, Scioscia concluded it wasn't a stretch to work Santana and Weaver on short rest -- three days instead of their customary four. "It's something we looked at a couple weeks ago," Scioscia said. "It was contingent on how the guys came out of their [most recent] starts. Both came out great. One time around, it's not going to be a big deal. We've done it with guys in the past, and it hasn't been an issue." Going on three days' rest is uncharted water for Santana and Weaver, something neither pitcher has done in the big leagues. Yet both are looking forward to the challenge, according to Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher. "There's zero doubt in their minds or our minds," Butcher said. "It's not like we're trying to pull rabbits out of hats. There's nothing that's changed other than it's one less day. It shouldn't be alarming." Weaver, old-school by nature, wasn't born when Sandy Koufax won World Series Game 7 with a shutout in Minnesota on two days' rest in 1965. The Angels' ace, signed this week to a five-year, $85 million contract extension, alluded to the past when asked if he had any trepidation about moving up his routine by a day. "It's not a big deal," Weaver said. "Guys used to pitch on two days' rest. We always mess around about going on short rest. It just came up." Weaver added that the bigger challenge will be facing the Rangers' potent offense in their hitter-friendly park, rather than dealing with diminished rest. Four times, in 2004 and '05, Scioscia used starters on three days' rest against the Rangers -- with mixed results. Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey pitched effectively in nailing down wins, but Jarrod Washburn and Lackey struggled in two other outings, giving up a combined 10 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings. Butcher is old enough to recall when four-man rotations working on three days' rest represented the norm. That began to change midway through the 1970s. One dissenter in Anaheim when the transition was made to a five-man rotation was the ace of the Angels' staff at the time. Nolan Ryan didn't care for altering his routine, having grown comfortable with unleashing 130 to 180 pitches every fourth day. "Go ask Nolan Ryan if he'd rather pitch every fourth or fifth day," Butcher said. "It's all about conditioning. If we had guys who couldn't do it, we wouldn't do it. "They've been asking to do this. We've been looking at it as well. It's something everyone wants to do." Weaver and Santana have demonstrated over the course of the season that they get stronger as games progress. Santana was throwing his fastest heaters in the final inning of his no-hitter in Cleveland, and Weaver has maintained his premium stuff late in games. Over his career, Weaver is decidedly better on four days' rest than longer breaks between starts. He's 39-22 with a 3.17 ERA in 88 outings on normal rest, slipping to 30-16, 3.60 in 60 starts on five days' rest. He is 10-7, 2.83 on six-plus days. Santana is slightly better with longer rest historically. He's 43-35, 4.39 on normal rest, 34-23, 4.16 on five days and 8-6, 3.69 on six-plus days. Joel Pineiro and newcomer Jerome Williams, in that order, are tentatively down to start the first two games of the series against the Mariners on Monday and Tuesday in Seattle. The Rangers seemed to take news of the altered Angels rotation in stride. "Bring them on," Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "They're good, no doubt about it. All three are well-rounded pitchers. They'll either step up on short rest or not. They're good, we'll just do the best we can." Rangers manager Ron Washington said he wasn't surprised by the Angels' decision. "I'm not surprised at anything Mike does," Washington said. "He knows what's best for his team. He always has. Mike has a better feel for those guys than I do." Santana is 11-9 with a 5.55 ERA in 23 career starts against the Rangers. Weaver is 9-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 24 starts. "We're not afraid of Santana and Weaver," Washington said. "We're not talking about Don Drysdale and Koufax. We've faced Weaver and Santana before."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.