Weaver out 4-6 weeks with broken left elbow
Angels righty injured avoiding line drive on Sunday against Rangers
ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver initially felt he dodged more than Mitch Moreland's comebacker at Rangers Ballpark; he thought he had avoided a serious injury. X-rays on the right-hander's left elbow came back negative on Sunday night, shortly after he used it to brace his fall and promptly checked out of the game. And Weaver, despite feeling pain, figured he'd be fine.
Then Monday happened.
A follow-up MRI in Southern California revealed that the Angels' ace has a broken left elbow -- the official term is a non-displaced radial head fracture -- and will miss at least four weeks, possibly up to six.
"This is all new to me," Weaver said Tuesday, his left arm in a sling. "I've never broken anything before. I didn't really know how to take the news. It kind of was a shock at first. Now you just have to play the waiting game, I guess."
While Weaver waits, young right-hander Garrett Richards will take his spot in the rotation, emerging from the bullpen to start on Saturday against the Astros. The 24-year-old Richards was impressive in Spring Training, posting a 1.45 ERA in 18 2/3 innings, then promptly carved a role in the back end of the bullpen to start the season.
But Richards still has plenty of length to take over as a starter and has by far the best stuff among the candidates to fill in.
"All hands on deck," said Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who doesn't foresee having to go outside the organization to add rotation depth. "We're trying to win a championship here. Garrett understands that. Garrett has trained as a starting pitcher and has been stretched as a starting pitcher."
On the positive side, Weaver's ailment isn't on his pitching arm and it happened early enough in the season where Richards can be available in a pinch.
But Weaver is perhaps the last guy the Angels needed to see land on the disabled list. Given the perceived questions in their rotation heading into the season, and their desire to get off to a much better start than they did last season, his loss is almost crippling to the Angels -- a team that lost four of its first six games heading into Tuesday night's home opener against the A's.
"It's a tough break," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "but we'll absorb it and keep moving forward."
It'll be up to Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson and now Richards to step up in Weaver's absence, but most important of all is perhaps Tuesday starter C.J. Wilson, the No. 2 starter who's coming off a rough second half of 2012 but can be an ace-like pitcher when right.
Weaver's loss also seeps down to the bullpen, which has now lost a key member in Richards. To give them more coverage, the Angels purchased the contract of reliever Dane De La Rosa from Triple-A Salt Lake in a corresponding move to placing Weaver on the DL.
De La Rosa, a 6-foot-7 right-hander who was acquired from the Rays for Steven Geltz on March 27, posted a 2.79 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings for Triple-A Durham last year. To make room for him on the roster, lefty Andrew Taylor (labrum tear) was transferred to the 60-day DL.
"He's a power arm," Scioscia described. "He's a big guy with a power arm and good stuff."
Weaver had given up four runs in five innings at Rangers Ballpark on Sunday night, his fastball velocity eerily dropping close to the mid-80s once again, when Moreland hit a line drive up the middle to start the bottom of the sixth.
The shot barely missed Weaver, but he hurt himself while using his left arm to brace his fall. Weaver immediately came out of the game, with Ian Kinsler hitting a game-breaking three-run homer off Mark Lowe -- expected to be placed in more high-leverage situations moving forward -- later in the inning.
It was, as Weaver called it, "a little freakish."
"I like to tell myself everything happens for a reason," Weaver said. "I'm still trying to find that reason, but hopefully somewhere along the line, something good comes out of it."
Weaver has finished in the top five in American League Cy Young Award voting each of the past three years. In 2012, he won a career-high 20 games, threw his first no-hitter, finished with a 2.81 ERA and sported a Major League-low 1.018 WHIP, but he missed the first three weeks of June because of a lower back strain and was limited to 188 2/3 innings.
Now the Angels will be without their ace for somewhere between four and seven turns through the rotation.
"You guys know Weave -- he's going to do what he can to make sure it's closer to the four [weeks]," Dipoto said. "Whatever we can do to help that, we will. But we're not going to push him back further. For us to achieve what we want to achieve this year, we need Jered to keep doing the things that Jered does on a consistent basis, and allowing him to get fully healthy is the most important thing for us right now."