Flexibility now key to Weaver's delivery, longevity

March 7th, 2017

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Flexibility wasn't always the priority for . Half a decade ago, when he was a perennial Cy Young Award candidate in Anaheim, Weaver wasn't exactly focused on preserving his range of motion.

He's a different pitcher now. After signing with San Diego on Feb. 18, the 34-year-old right-hander made his Padres debut on Monday during a 6-5 win against the White Sox. He allowed one run on four hits over two innings while using his entire arsenal of pitches.

Given his age and declining velocity, Weaver has paid more attention to his flexibility over the past year. He says it has made him freer in his delivery, and played a big role in his solid finish to 2016.

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"[I'm] 10 steps ahead of where I was last year," Weaver said following his outing. "I could get the ball in the arm-slot that I want to. I'm not fighting against myself. I can throw around my body as opposed to having to compensate on my front side for how my shoulder's feeling. ... It's night-and-day from last year."

Earlier this spring, Weaver said that, "a lot of years of bad maintenance on my body" had begun to make him feel restricted on the mound. It started with a tight hip. Then, when he began to overcompensate, his shoulder and his neck stiffened.

In 31 starts last season, Weaver posted a 5.06 ERA -- a run-and-a-half higher than his career average. He finished the year, however, with a 3.04 mark over his final four starts. During that time, he said he regained the "lankiness" in his delivery.

"Now that I have a little bit more extension with everything kind of freeing up, the two-seamer was a little better than expected in my first spring start," Weaver said.

Added Padres manager Andy Green: "I see extension, I see hand height, I see higher leg lift. ... Last year, that wasn't happening early in the season. I see a lot of positive signs early on."

Weaver appears to have his starting spot locked up in San Diego, where he's the elder-statesman on one of baseball's youngest rosters. After spending 11 seasons with the Angels, it's Weaver's first time in a new clubhouse. His early impressions are positive.

"Great group of guys, man," Weaver said. "They like to have fun, but they turn it on when they need to. If you can mix fun in when you're supposed to and take care of business on the field -- it's a good happy medium."