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Weaver a constant amid rotation makeover

Weaver a constant amid rotation makeover

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jered Weaver's temporary locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium hasn't moved. If you're walking in from the field, it's still along the wall on the right-hand side of the room, at the end of a row of five and conveniently situated next to the stereo.

Around him, though, so much continues to change.

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It's pretty eerie if you go back to the spring before Weaver's rookie season in 2006, when Garret Anderson, Vladimir Guerrero, Tim Salmon and John Lackey dominated the clubhouse. But it's alarming even if you rewind to just last spring, when it was Ervin Santana and Dan Haren seated directly to Weaver's right, making up the row of lockers normally dedicated to the starting pitchers.

Now, they're simply two members of a staff that's 60 percent new heading into 2013. Haren, Santana and late-season acquisition Zack Greinke have gone their separate ways, replaced by the less-heralded but cost-efficient trio of Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas, Weaver's ex-teammate at Long Beach State and still a very close friend.

"Obviously, it's a bummer losing guys like that," Weaver said prior to Tuesday's first workout. "Haren turned out to be one of my best friends, and Santana, been with him forever as well. He was an Angel for a long time and it [stinks] to lose those guys. But I think the front office and organization did a great job filling in those pieces."

But Weaver is the one the Angels annually rely on -- now more than ever, perhaps -- to anchor the staff, halt losing streaks, win big games and put up Cy Young-caliber numbers with a consistency that almost makes you take it for granted.

He is the one constant, now among the longest-tenured Angels players, and ever the ace -- even if he falls short of calling himself that.

"I don't really think about that, man," said Weaver, who's expected to make his fourth straight Opening Day start on April 1 in Cincinnati. "I'm just one guy, part of this five-man rotation and we all feed off of each other. I don't want to put any added pressure like, 'Oh God, I have to win this game.' I just go out there and compete and try to win every game. Like I say every time, let the chips fall where they may. Don't put any added pressure on myself just to motivate everybody."

What makes Weaver great isn't necessarily his repertoire, but what he can do even on nights when his best stuff eludes him.

It happened several times just last season, when Weaver didn't feel right coming out of the chute but nonetheless willed himself through a big game the team needed -- in many ways answering to the pressure he refuses to put on himself. Even in a season that saw him deal with a lower back injury and some biceps tendinitis, Weaver won a career-high 20 games, posted a 2.81 ERA, threw 188 2/3 innings, led the Majors with a 1.018 WHIP and finished within the top five in American League Cy Young voting for the third straight season.

Since his first full season in '07, Weaver ranks fourth in wins (91), tied for ninth in WHIP (1.16), 13th in strikeouts (1,014), 13th in innings (1,197 1/3) and tied for 14th in ERA (3.31).

That five-year, $85 million extension -- half the size of the seven-year, $175 million deal Felix Hernandez signed on Tuesday -- looks like more of a bargain every year.

"I don't set goals for myself," Weaver said. "My only goal is to win a World Series. I've said that from Day 1 and I'm sticking to that."

Once again, with Josh Hamilton added to the lineup, Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett inserted in the bullpen and more than $150 million committed to the payroll, it looks like the Angels have that chance.

But, as Weaver was quick to point out: "It always looks good on paper. It looked pretty good on paper last year and didn't quite work out for us like we wanted it to."

If there's one central focus for the Angels this spring, it's getting off to a better start than that 6-14 hole that ultimately doomed them last year. What's tricky about that is they can't really ask for a better camp than they had last spring.

"That's why baseball is so interesting because you never know what's going to happen," Weaver said. "Everybody picked us to win, and we took that into the season and thought that was the way we were going to go about it, but it didn't quite work out that way. There's no crystal ball. You never know how it's going to work out. But our goal is to win a world championship and try to go out there and compete day in and day out. That's what we're going to try to do this year, just like we tried to do last year."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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