Weaver's next start may be most important

Veteran right-hander's ERA is 6.81

Weaver's next start may be most important

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Like a boxer hearing the eight-count, Jered Weaver is on the ropes. And no one knows this better than the veteran pitcher of 12 seasons.

Baseball is a performance-driven sport. If you don't perform, you will be driven out. Any player who has been around as long as Weaver has seen it happen to friends and teammates.

Weaver's solid outing

The clock is ticking. It could run out Sunday against the White Sox in Chicago if his eighth start of the season isn't an improvement over his recent outings.

"I know the nature of this business," Weaver said Tuesday night after his seventh and most recent rough start. "If it keeps going the way it is, I'm going to find myself on the couch."

We'll get into some numbers in a second. But the most alarming signal to me is something I noticed on the Petco Park scoreboard last week. The pitch identifier recorded a Weaver pitch as a changeup. It was actually his fastball.

Everyone knows Weaver's velocity is down. But other veterans have survived once their fastball disappeared. Call it guile. They have solid secondary pitches they turn into primary pitches.

The command of those pitches has failed Weaver this year. And the trend is escalating downward with every start.

Over his last three starts, Weaver has allowed 22 runs (17 earned) on 22 hits and four walks in 12 2/3 innings. That's a 12.08 ERA. And it has forced Weaver's season ERA to 6.81.

Of course, the biggest bugaboo of Weaver's season thus far is the size of ballparks. They're not big enough to hold the 14 home runs Weaver has surrendered in 35 2/3 innings. The 14 homers equals the highest total allowed in the Major Leagues. And it breaks down to one home run in about every 2 2/3 innings. Twenty-two of the 33 runs allowed by Weaver have come on home runs.

But what happens if the Padres pull the plug on Weaver? Who is next in line?

Jarred Cosart would likely get the first shot. He'll be returning from the disabled list this week after being out since April 29 with a right hamstring strain. Cosart has a 3.24 ERA in three appearances with the Padres this season. He had a solid spring, and worked four scoreless innings for Triple-A El Paso on a rehab assignment Sunday.

Cosart strikes out Suarez

The other leading candidates would appear to be veteran Matt Magill and prospect Dinelson Lamet, who are in the El Paso rotation.

Magill, 27, is 2-2 with a 2.38 ERA in six starts with the Chihuahuas. Lamet, 24, the Padres' 10th-ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, is 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA and 38 strikeouts over 29 innings in six starts with El Paso.

Game notes
• Shortstop Erick Aybar has hit safely in 14 of his last 18 games, going 17-for-66 (.258) with two doubles, four homers, five walks, four steals, eight RBIs and 11 runs scored. Over that stretch, Aybar has raised his batting average from .134 to .214.

Aybar's solo homer

• Catcher Austin Hedges, who has played in 32 games, is in a 3-for-26 slump that has dropped his batting average from a season-high .205 on April 29, to .182. Hedges hit his seventh homer of the season Tuesday during his first multi-hit game since April 29.

• Center fielder Manuel Margot has hit safely in eight of his last 10 games, going 12-for-40 (.300) with six walks. But he has scored only one run in the 10 games despite a .391 on-base percentage. He hasn't scored in the last seven games.

• Speaking of not scoring, right fielder Hunter Renfroe scored Wednesday night for the first time since April 29. Renfroe is in a 4-for-40 slump over his past 11 games, with one double, one RBI and one run scored against 17 strikeouts.