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Weaver's goal: Continue to evolve as pitcher

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ARLINGTON -- Jered Weaver's goal every year never changes. He comes into Spring Training determined to improve on his previous season. That might seem overly ambitious for 2013, considering he's coming off his first 20-win season highlighted by a no-hitter, an All-Star Game appearance and American League bests in winning percentage (.800), WHIP (1.018) and hits per nine innings (7.0) while ranking third in ERA at 2.81.

"I don't know if he's talking about statistical improvement as much as evolving as a pitcher," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I'd be surprised if he said he wanted to win 25. I think he's talking about sharpening up as a pitcher. No doubt, as his stuff has changed, he's become a much more polished pitcher."

Weaver is matched Sunday night against Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish, coming off his near perfect game against the Astros in Houston. Darvish retired 26 hitters in a row before it was spoiled by Marwin Gonzalez's bullet through the middle that Darvish was unable to knock down.

"Yeah, too bad I won't get to hit," Weaver said, facetiously. "That probably wouldn't be a lot of fun."

Weaver, like the Giants' Matt Cain and Cy Young Award winners R.A. Dickey and David Price, will be hard-pressed to improve on his 2012 performance. What he can do, Weaver said, is make 33 starts, not 30, after issues with his back and shoulder prevented him from reaching his normal number of outings.

"Maybe try to match it," he said, grinning, when asked if improvement on his numbers is a stretch. "I always try to get better on the field, but you've got to make adjustments off the field as well. I want to make the best of my 33 starts, keep us in games, and that involves preparation, in the offseason and during the season.

"I had that start last year where my back locked up against the Yankees. It felt like a knife in my back. Then I had some shoulder issues late. Hopefully, I can stay free of any physical problems this year."

Weaver's ability to put away hitters without an overpowering, Justin Verlander-like heater is mystifying to some people, but not to his manager.

"You can still be effective without [exceptional] velocity," Scioscia said. "His four-pitch mix and deception with his delivery, along with tremendous command, allow him to do what he's doing. This was how he pitched all last year, and he won 20 games."

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

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