Weaver rediscovers slot in productive tune-up

Despite poor line, Angels righty finds success 'pitching instead of throwing'

Weaver rediscovers slot in productive tune-up

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jered Weaver didn't really want to be here. All of his teammates were back in Southern California on Wednesday, but the Angels' longtime ace was stuck in Arizona because he needed to make one more start. It would come against eager, aggressive, impatient Minor League hitters. And it would begin with a 24-pitch first inning that featured a prodigious three-run homer.

But then something weird happened.

Weaver actually started to have fun.

"It's always fun when you find something and you can locate and you're putting the ball where you want to," Weaver said. "I started pitching instead of throwing."

Weaver completed six innings against low-level A's Minor Leaguers in what he hopes was his final tune-up start before the regular season. He gave up five runs on five hits and a walk, striking out four and throwing 85 pitches, 63 for strikes, on the main field of a desolate Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Weaver left a changeup out over the plate for the first-inning homer, but then he found his arm slot -- the one that clicked for him five days earlier -- and felt a lot better. He gave up another home run on an 0-2, up-and-in fastball -- "It would've hit him in the neck," Weaver said -- but otherwise not much.

Weaver even threw changeups on the inside part of the plate, which he never does.

"When you're throwing the stuff that I'm throwing, you have to invent some stuff to keep people off balance," Weaver said. "It was pretty fun, actually."

The Angels are starting Garrett Richards on Opening Day and Andrew Heaney in Game 2. Weaver, who has started Opening Day each of the last six years, could pitch at any point from April 7-11. The 33-year-old right-hander could face hitters at Angel Stadium and then begin the regular season in the rotation, but that will be manager Mike Scioscia's call.

"I hope that's all that we do," Weaver said. "I don't want to go to a Minor League game. Those things get a little grueling. But whatever they think is best, that's what I'll do."

It's been a rough spring for Weaver, immediately following a tough summer.

Weaver entered camp hopeful of rekindling some life on his fastball, but he has thrown it mainly 79-81 mph, as many as five ticks slower than his average from last season. Weaver previously underwent a precautionary MRI exam on his neck, which basically revealed that he can continue to pitch through tightness, and he has spent most of Spring Training playing catch-up.

Weaver believes the only thing left to do is build strength, after spending so much time focusing on flexibility.

"It's kind of like a rubber band," Weaver described. "You stretch it out too much and it doesn't really snap back. I think that if I just strengthen up that rubber band, it should be good to go."

Overall, Weaver assessed, his Wednesday was "pretty good."

"Something clicked there in that first inning mechanically," Weaver said. "I was pretty happy with it after the first."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.