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A First Step for Weaver

June 21, 2005|Tim Brown | Times Staff Writer

Jered Weaver took the ball on Monday night, a year out of college, $4 million wealthier, and threw a fastball; it had to start somewhere.

Pitching for Rancho Cucamonga, an Angel Class-A affiliate, Weaver left behind the tedium and rancor of a year idly spent and began the process of joining his brother, Dodger starter Jeff, in the big leagues.

He threw three innings against the Lake Elsinore Storm at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore, some of the time spent reacquainting himself with the details of the game.

"It went well. It's kind of tough, 400 days off, to come out and be sharp," he said. "It was definitely a long time. It was not what I expected, but it was a good, long rest."

Weaver threw 52 pitches. His fastball reached 92 mph in the first inning and settled into the high 80s, and his slider stood consistently at 83 mph. He struck out four, walked two and gave up one run and three hits, the first a broken-bat single by Fernando Valenzuela Jr. The Quakes lost, 3-1. When Weaver faced seven batters in the second inning, a few in the smallish crowd grew skeptical.

From behind the third base dugout, a man shouted, "You ain't like Jeff!" Another yelled, "Four million and this is what they got?"

But Weaver retired his final five batters in order, two on comebackers and two on strikeouts. He appeared more in command by the third inning, when he threw a couple of changeups and struck out Storm cleanup hitter Jordan Pickens on a sidearm fastball.

Tony Reagins, the Angels' director of player development, called it step one.

"This will let us know where he is and we'll go from there," he said. "What he does out there is how he's going to progress. He's going to be like any of our prospects; he's going to have to earn his way."

Weaver arrived near the bottom of the Angels' minor league system on June 11, when he reported to Rancho Cucamonga, a year to the day after his final college game. The 12th pick overall in the 2004 draft, Weaver, 22, signed on May 30, hours before he would have re-entered the draft. He entered the Angel system, threw two simulated games and two bullpen sessions, then went about pitching to agent Scott Boras' scouting report.

"He's a player we felt could step right off a college campus and into the major leagues," Boras had said, but a year passed since Weaver left Long Beach State.

So it began here instead, with a small crowd and a lively fastball.

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