Tricky inning no problem for Weaver

Tricky inning no problem for Weaver

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- All systems go. Jered Weaver has everything but the boss's official seal of approval.

Weaver remained on course for the Angels' Opening Day pitching assignment in Minnesota with 6 1/3 innings of quality work Friday night in a 4-1 decision over the Rangers at Surprise Stadium.

Manager Mike Scioscia was impressed, but he still wasn't ready to make it official. "He's going to be an option," Scioscia said, "but not yet."

Even when he gave up the lone Texas run, Weaver managed to elevate his game. Four consecutive hits and a walk put him in a bad place in the third inning, but the 6-foot-7 right-hander reached back and put away Josh Hamilton and Hank Blalock, the Rangers' No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, with fastballs behind offspeed deliveries to leave the bases loaded.

"This is the way I pitch when I'm healthy," Weaver said. "This is the way I'm supposed to feel. This is me -- how I felt when I first came in as far as health is concerned."

Weaver began his Major League career in 2006 with wins in his first nine decisions, something that hadn't been done in 56 years, when Whitey Ford was a young man in the Bronx.

Weaver is 5-0 this spring in five starts, suggesting that old winning feeling has returned.

Biceps tendinitis provided a major obstacle last spring, forcing Weaver to miss two starts and labor en route to a 13-7 record and 3.91 ERA in 28 outings.

"I feel if the season were to start tomorrow, I'm ready physically," Weaver said. "Any time I can get into the seventh is a goal of mine this season."

He averaged 5 2/3 innings per start in 2007 and a shade below 6 2/3 innings in 19 rookie outings when he was 11-2 with a 2.56 ERA.

The disturbance in the third inning, which began with Frank Catalanotto's double to the right-center gap, provided an opportunity for Weaver to dig in for some crisis management. It's a mandatory exercise for every pitcher, no matter how gifted, to think and work his way through messes, keeping damage at a minimum.

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"You get guys on base, that's when you kind of get locked in," Weaver said. "With nobody on, you're just concentrating on throwing strikes. Bases loaded, second and third, it's like situations during the season. You concentrate like in the season."

Hamilton and Blalock can testify that his powers of concentration are in midseason form. Confidently guiding Weaver was catcher Bobby Wilson, whose solo homer in the sixth, his first of the spring, set the Angels' offense in motion.

Weaver finished with six strikeouts and one walk while yielding seven hits. In 20 1/3 innings, high for the staff, he owns a 1.33 ERA and has given up just 12 hits and three walks while striking out 14.

"It's good to see him pitch that deep in a game," Scioscia said. "He maintained his stuff, got to 92 pitches, got to where he needs to be."

Clearly, for the long-striding Weaver, it was another sure step closer to a big March 31 date in Minnesota.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.