D-backs right-hander Luke Weaver threw a 97 mph fastball with his 43rd pitch of Friday night right past Trent Grisham for the third out of the third inning.
Weaver bounced off the mound and headed back to the visiting dugout at Petco Park feeling good.
“That third inning was definitely the best inning I’ve thrown this year, as far as how everything was commanded, executed, really just the way everything felt,” Weaver said.
It was also the final pitch Weaver threw in the game, a 3-0 loss to the Padres that snapped the D-backs' two-game winning streak, because of a decision that manager Torey Lovullo and his staff had reached days earlier.
“We had a long conversation with Luke, [pitching coach] Matt Herges and I, we talked about some of the things we were thinking about,” Lovullo said. “Once again, we’ve got a great culture here. He said he understands and said he would give us his best effort for the amount of time he was out there until we made the decision to maneuver in the bullpen. He was well aware of this taking place.”
In Weaver's first two starts of the year, he started to run into trouble in the fourth inning. He gave up five runs and didn't make it through the fourth in his first outing, which was also against the Padres. And in his second, he faced the Dodgers and gave up three runs in the fourth and five in the fifth.
With the D-backs off to a 5-9 start, there has been a sense of urgency to turn things around, and if that meant shortening the outing of a pitcher who was arguably their best last year -- before injuring his elbow in May and tossing only two innings the rest of the year -- then so be it.
“This is a game of performance,” Lovullo said. “We’re evaluating everybody, and we’re probably a little bit more aggressive making decisions. This is where it took us today. We weren’t winning baseball games, and we were trying to give ourselves the best chance to maneuver, flip a lineup and win a baseball game. That’s really where I’m at, that’s what we wanted to do."
For his part, Weaver chose to look at Friday as a way to get himself back on track.
“I take this as a positive,” Weaver said. “I take this as a little bit of a reboot, kind of like a restart, forget about everything that’s happened. Go into the three innings knowing that and build off of it. I ended on a really good one, feel amazing about how that ended, I really do. I feel very confident and ready to go.”
Lovullo made it clear that he didn’t view Weaver’s role as an opener, and in five days, Weaver will get the ball again against the Rockies at Coors Field.
Will Weaver will be limited to three innings again? Lovullo was less certain of that.
“I know you guys will be very eagerly awaiting what we do in five days,” Lovullo said. “I can’t predict that. We have to win that baseball game in five days. That’s what I can say. We’re going to do all we can to win that baseball game. We’ll see what the shape of it looks like the next time he goes out there and see what those matchups look like.”
After coming over from the Cardinals in the trade that sent Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis, Weaver compiled a 3.03 ERA in his first 11 outings last season, before leaving his May 26 start against the Giants with right elbow discomfort. He returned for two innings during the final week of the regular season, and there were high hopes that this year he would pick up where he left off.
Instead, Weaver struggled, leading to this decision.
“We thought this was a situation where we just felt like it would help him continue to move forward and get back into that form before he was injured last year,” Lovullo said.