"It felt really good," Weaver said about his start. "I was tinkering around with some mechanical stuff and just kind of got into a nice sync. The ball was jumping out of my hand and a little up in the zone early, so I just worked to keep it down in the zone, and it made all my other pitches a little bit better later on."
Weaver has appeared in five games for Surprise in the Fall League, but Friday's outing marked his first start. The 22-year-old has thrown 14 1/3 innings on the season, posting a 1.88 ERA with 14 strikeouts in that span. Opposing hitters, meanwhile, are batting a paltry .102 against him.
Selected by the Cardinals with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Weaver logged only 9 1/3 innings during his professional debut, making four starts in the Rookie Gulf Coast League before finishing the year with a pair of starts for Class A Advanced Palm Beach of the Florida State League.
Because his velocity was down after signing, the Cardinals had Weaver begin this past season in extended Spring Training in order to build up his arm strength before sending him back to Palm Beach in mid-May. The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder subsequently emerged as one of the top pitchers in the Florida State League, posting a 1.62 ERA with 88 strikeouts against 19 walks in 105 1/3 innings.
"It stunk to start off in extended," he said. "But I think with that happening I learned some better routines -- some recovery band and arm work, which I did every day, to keep me healthy throughout the whole season. It also gave me more time to face hitters and get a little bit of coaching from the Cardinals' staff."
Weaver's time at Palm Beach also prepared him for the Fall League, where he now ranks among the league leaders in ERA.
"It definitely helped a lot," he said. "I was able to have some success and repeat it consistently. I've never been to the Double-A level, and a lot of these guys are older and have experience at Double- and Triple-A."
On Friday, Weaver worked in the 93-95 mph range with his fastball, topping out at 97 in the first inning, while showing excellent feel for his mid-80s changeup.
"The changeup is one of those feel pitches which I've always had confidence in," Weaver said. "It's kind of my best friend; it's always there when I need it."
The Florida State product also mixed in a slider, which registered in the mid- to upper-70s.
"The slider is the big thing. The Cardinals wanted me to work on that, and it's become a good pitch for me. It's a little inconsistent at times and will get a bit loopy, but I've come a long way since I started throwing it at the back end of the season," Weaver said. "I'm really liking how it's turning out; it's becoming one of those pitches I can throw in any count."
Brewers No. 14 prospect Josh Hader entered in the fifth inning in relief of Weaver and once again impressed, allowing just one hit while striking out four batters over three innings. The 21-year-old lefty operated at 94-98 mph with his fastball, and he generated numerous whiffs with his slider, especially when he located it on the back foot of right-handed hitters. Hader's Fall League ERA now sits at a miniscule 0.90 through 10 innings, and he's allowed just four hits while striking out 15 batters in that span.
Offensively, Cardinals second baseman Aledmys Diaz paced Surprise's offense with a 3-for-3 effort that included a double and an RBI, while Yankees No. 18 prospect Dustin Fowler, who has been red-hot of late, went 1-for-4 with an RBI double and two runs scored.
In his second Fall League start for Peoria, Orioles No. 2 prospect (No. 64 overall) Dylan Bundy allowed one run on two hits in his one inning of work, throwing 14 of his 19 pitches for strikes.
Still working his way back from a shoulder injury which ended his season in late May, the 22-year-old right-hander was mostly 92-93 mph with his fastball, and he made a noticeable effort to work in his secondary offerings which included a changeup (87 mph), curveball (74) and slider (82-83).