MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Weaver working to fill out deep Angels rotation

Ten-year vet making progress to strengthen right arm

Weaver working to fill out deep Angels rotation

MESA, Ariz. -- It's not just batters that Angels right-hander Jered Weaver is ready to challenge.

Father time is on his list, too.

Weaver, 33, is a three-time All-Star who has twice led the American League in victories. He has finished in the top five in AL Cy Young Award voting three times. And even with nagging right shoulder problems the past three seasons, he's 14th among Major League pitchers in innings pitched over the past seven years with 1,386 1/3.

The fastball has been pretty much in the 79-81 mph range this spring, although he did raise the radar readings to 83 mph a time or two in the fourth inning of his five-inning effort in the Angels' 11-3 victory over the A's at Hohokam Stadium on Friday afternoon.

And while Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia is hedging a bit, Weaver has declared himself ready to be a part of the rotation once he makes a six-inning appearance in a Minor League game at the Angels' training facility in Tempe on Wednesday.

Angels Spring Training information

They can only hope.

They arrived in Spring Training nearly six weeks ago knowing that all the hype in the AL West has focused on the defending division champion Rangers and AL Wild Card-winning Astros, with a ray or two shining on a revamped Mariners roster. But the Angels were confident that they had an edge on every other team in the division, boasting eight legitimate candidates for the rotation.

OK, there's no Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke or Madison Bumgarner, but there's the type of ability that provides reason to believe the Angels are built for the 162-game grind.

Then came the revelation that Tyler Skaggs is likely going to need the first month of the season to recover in his return from Tommy John surgery in August 2014.

Skaggs returns from surgery

In addition, C.J. Wilson's achy left shoulder is trouble enough that he hasn't even thrown a bullpen session in the last week. He will continue to work on strengthening the shoulder "another eight to 10 days" before resuming a throwing program, according to Scioscia.

There is also Weaver's continuing battle to work his way through life at a lesser velocity.

"We have chewed up some of that depth for sure," said Scioscia. "Hopefully it will stabilize by the end of spring and we will enjoy that depth at some point in the season."

Weaver is a big part of that.

The Angels' rotation seems nearly set with Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney and Hector Santiago, which leaves Matt Shoemaker and Nick Tropeano battling to fill the rotation spot that Skaggs is expected to eventually claim. Weaver continues to build arm strength with the knowledge that the Angels won't need a fifth starter until April 11 in Oakland.

Weaver seems to be targeting the season-opening two-game series against the Cubs.

"He could be," Scioscia said when asked if Weaver can be ready for the regular season with just one more Spring Training start. "He has one more [start next week] and we will try to get him six innings. Then we will see where Jered is."

Weaver is more optimistic, but after the shoulder problems he has pitched through the last three seasons, the fact he finally found a comfortable arm slot on Friday gives him every reason to proclaim he will be in the rotation at the start of the season.

"About 80 percent of the league wouldn't have been throwing with what I've been throwing with the last couple years," said Weaver, referring to tightness in his right shoulder.

Weaver said he finally was able to alleviate that after coming up with a stretching program on his own during the past offseason. He was particularly pleased with his five-inning effort against the A's, in which he gave up three runs over five innings -- including two homers -- but didn't walk a batter.

"Just more consistency with the arm slot," Weaver said of the difference from two previous Spring Training starts, in which he allowed five runs in 4 2/3 total innings. "I haven't been able to throw a ball out of that arm slot in three years.

"I was able to throw the ball like I want to. I kind of threw an array of pitches, kind of throwing everything towards the end. I wanted to get a feel for all my pitches. It was good, a step in the right direction."

Looking to improve off last season's third-place finish, in which the Angels were three games back of the Rangers and one behind the Astros, a key would be a rebound from Weaver, who is coming off a season in which he had a losing record (7-12) for the first time in 10 big league seasons, a career-high 4.64 ERA and his second-lowest innings total (159) in the past nine years.

Weaver is confident the best is yet to come.

"Everything is starting to loosen up," Weaver said. "Every day is getting better. I found a couple more hot spots to hit to loosen everything up. Progress has been good."

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.