Weaver ready if Opening Day call comes

Weaver ready if Opening Day call comes

TEMPE, Ariz. - Jered Weaver made it through Friday's Minor League camp game in Chicago-style conditions -- windy and cool -- and feels fully tuned for an Opening Day assignment he is projected to make on April 5 when the Angels welcome the Twins to Angel Stadium.

Manager Mike Scioscia, never in a rush to make such declarations, hasn't made it official, but Weaver's second Opening Day start appears to be a mere formality.

"I haven't heard anything," Weaver said when informed that the opener falls on his normal workday. "I'm not very good at math. You never know until you hear from Mike."

Weaver will have a bullpen session on Monday and determine how strenuously he wants to perform in a final tuneup on Wednesday when the Angels depart the desert after facing the Cubs in Mesa.

"Sosh came up to me yesterday," Weaver said, "and said, `It depends on how you feel. If you feel like you need another 90, 100 [pitches] or take it down to 70, 80, that's good, too.'"

Throwing to Minor League hitters from the Athletics organization, Weaver unleashed 82 pitches in Phoenix on Friday, two of which left the ballpark.

"One was wind-aided," he said. "The other one was pretty well hit. It went good. I felt good, felt strong. Ready to go. My last one is to get to wherever I need to be.

"After [Scot] Shields came in, I threw eight warm-ups and 11 more [pitches] in the bullpen. So it was 93, with warm-ups over 100."

Set-up artist Shields, recovered from offseason knee surgery, threw 22 pitches and got two outs.

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Weaver said he isn't quite ready to bring into games a pitch he's been experimenting with, a second slider with late break shown to him by Joel Pineiro. But the 6-foot-7 cross-firing right-hander feels he has made advances with his two-seam fastball, a complement to his bread-and-butter four-seamer.

"If you can get in the zone with two-seamers, it can help you with early-count outs," Scioscia said. "Last year, he was more confident with that pitch and it did help him get deeper in games.

"Some guys never get confident with the two-seamer; some guys find it right away. With Weav, it took a little time, but he has a feel for it now. He'll throw his four- or two-seamer to everybody. For a guy with a complicated delivery, he has terrific command."

In his first Opening Day start, in 2008 at Minnesota, Weaver pitched well but dropped a 3-2 decision.

The 27-year-old Simi Valley, Calif., native is coming off his best of four Major League seasons. He was 16-8 with a 3.75 ERA, the only starter in Scioscia's rotation not to miss a turn. His 211 innings and 174 strikeouts were career highs.

"Weav's confidence picked up," Scioscia said. "It went from very high to off the charts as he performed well down the stretch and into the playoffs. He's always been a confident kid.

"He has the potential to be a lead dog. He's certainly a guy who understands how to compete. He's jumped up to one of our top pitchers in the league."

Weaver's brilliant Game 2 performance in the American League Division Series at home against Boston -- 7 1/3 innings, one earned run, two hits allowed -- enhanced his growing reputation as a big game pitcher.

In 20 2/3 postseason innings, he has yielded six earned runs (2.61 ERA) while giving up only 12 hits and 10 walks, striking out 22 men.

Scioscia said he won't have an announcement about his Opening Day starter for "three or four days. Some things," he added, "are unsettled with a couple of guys we need to follow up on. We're close."

Scott Kazmir, proclaiming his recent shoulder tightness "over and done with," was set to get back on a mound in a bullpen session on Saturday.

Ervin Santana, having recovered from a bump on the bursa sac in his right elbow, is scheduled to start on Sunday against the Indians at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

"Kaz folds back in [to the rotation] on Tuesday" when the Angels face the Brewers at home, Scioscia said.

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