Weaver eager to earn a longer leash
ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver walked off the mound to end the top of the sixth and saw his manager, Mike Scioscia, waiting for him at the top step of the dugout on Wednesday night. "One more," Weaver said, because he had only allowed one run and had only thrown 93 pitches. But Scioscia didn't budge. He shook his head, letting Weaver know the Angels were going to the bullpen, instead.
Weaver slumped his shoulders, rolled his eyes and walked toward the clubhouse, keeping his head down and wanting no part of the high-fives being offered to him. Then he watched the Angels' bullpen give up five runs on nine hits over the next two innings, sending the Angels to a 9-2 loss to the A's and a 6-9 record on the season.
By the time it was over, Weaver had seemingly calmed down and repeatedly said he understood.
"It's not my decision," Weaver said. "It's [Scioscia's] decision. He knows where I'm at and how I'm feeling mechanically and body-wise. It's going to take a little bit of time to get that trust back and prove to him that I can be the guy that goes out there and throws 100, 115 pitches. That's what I was used to a couple years ago. But body-wise, I'm just trying to get to where I know I can be. Until then, he's going to have a little shorter leash on me."
The 93 pitches Weaver threw on Wednesday, while matching a dominant Sonny Gray through the first six frames, represented a season high. The Angels' ace has now gone four starts into a season without reaching 100 pitches for the first time in the last nine years, if you discount a 2013 season that began with a fractured left elbow.
In the first two starts -- while throwing 90 and 85 pitches, respectively -- the early exit was performance-related, as Weaver gave up a combined 10 runs on 15 hits in 10 1/3 innings to the Mariners and Royals. Against the Astros on Friday, while throwing six innings of two-run ball, Weaver was good with exiting after 86 pitches because the humidity inside Minute Maid Park was exhausting.
On Wednesday, while scattering eight hits, and walking no batters for the third time this season, Weaver was ready for more.
"He used a lot of pitches early," Scioscia said, specifically referencing a first inning that saw Weaver throw 25 pitches. "He pitched his heart out and kept us in the game, but there's no sense in stretching him."
The seventh inning is a big one for the Angels this year; it's the three outs that lead to their lights-out combination of Joe Smith and Huston Street, and a frame Scioscia continues to match up in.
On Wednesday, the matchups backfired.
With two on and two outs, Fernando Salas paved the way for Cesar Ramos, who has emerged as a lefty specialist. Ramos served up the go-ahead single to Stephen Vogt, the left-handed-hitting catcher who entered 13-for-66 in his career against lefties. Then came righty specialist Vinnie Pestano, uncorking a wild pitch, serving up a two-run homer to Billy Butler and giving up three more hits - a single to Ike Davis, a double to Josh Reddick and an RBI single to Brett Lawrie.
"That's probably up there with the worst outing of my career," said Pestano, who entered with six scoreless outings.
Weaver could only watch -- and hope the leash eventually gets longer.
"I hope so," Weaver said. "I've been battling to get through six, which is understandable with what [Scioscia's] thinking is. It's a work in progress for me. It's getting better each and every outing, but I want to get deeper in games. I'm just throwing too many pitches early. It's frustrating, but at the same time, we have to let the manager make the ultimate decision."