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Fit to Be Tied in Freeway Series Opener

Weaver, who hopes his brother joins him with Angels, finishes so-so spring by working five innings in a 6-6, rain-shortened tie.

April 01, 2006|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Jeff Weaver was robustly booed Friday night at Dodger Stadium, both when he was announced as part of the Angel lineup before the Freeway Series opener and when he stepped to the plate in the second inning.

No surprise there. Dodger fans have little regard for the lanky right-hander who spurned their team's offer of arbitration and signed a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the Angels that might have amounted to less than he would have made had he stuck around Chavez Ravine.

But there is a lure to pitching for the Angels that no dollar figure can match. He's Jered Weaver, another lanky right-hander swathed in red who is two inches taller, six years younger and every bit as promising as his major-league sibling.

"[Jered's] jumped from a guy we wanted to see to a guy that is very high up there on the depth chart to where I'd think we would be very comfortable if we had to give him the ball right now in a major league game," Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said before a rain-shortened 6-6 tie.

The game was called in the middle of the eighth inning, shortly after Edgardo Alfonzo's single to right had scored Maicer Izturis from second to put the Angels ahead, 7-6. But because the Dodgers did not get to bat in their half of the inning, the game reverted to a tie.

Although Jered Weaver will open the season pitching for triple-A Salt Lake, it seems clear from his sterling spring that he could join his brother in Anaheim before long.

With five scoreless innings Thursday against the San Francisco Giants, Weaver lowered his spring earned-run average to 1.02 in five appearances, including three starts. He allowed 11 hits and only two runs in 17 2/3 innings and yielded a .186 batting average to opposing hitters, numbers that could make him the first option if the Angels need a spot starter.

"What we've seen so far this spring is a guy that looks comfortable in a major league game," Angel pitching coach Bud Black said. "He looks comfortable in our surroundings. He's not intimidated, he's got confidence, he looks as if he has poise."

The younger Weaver called playing with his brother, even in a spring training environment, "a dream come true for me and him. We never had a chance to play together with the six-year age difference."

Jeff Weaver closed a so-so spring with a passable performance Friday, giving up 10 hits and four runs in five innings to finish with a 7.46 ERA.

"It's just like before, just the boos instead of the cheers," Weaver said of pitching at Dodger Stadium, where he went 27-24 with a 4.11 ERA in two years.

There were cheers aplenty for Dodger closer Eric Gagne, who pitched for the third time in four days but the first time in Dodger Stadium since June 12. With his fastball topping out in the low 90s, Gagne gave up two runs and three hits in a shaky fifth, including a homer to Garret Anderson on a 90-mph fastball and a double to Casey Kotchman on an 82-mph changeup.

"If people are expecting to see the Eric Gagne right out of the gate that they saw in 2003 and '04, that would be unfair," Dodger Manager Grady Little. "He's coming back. He's feeling good. It's a process he's going to have to go through."

Jered Weaver's ascent has been especially rapid for someone who sat out a year after being drafted by the Angels in 2004. He finally agreed to a contract last May.

When the Angels approached Jeff Weaver in February with an offer, the first person he turned to was his brother.

"I was like, 'Dude, we may not have this opportunity again, so we might as well go for it,' " Jered Weaver said.

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