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Angels pitcher Jered Weaver works on his two-seam fastball

ANGELS FYI

The right-hander isn't sharp in victory over Padres, but he's trying to get more ground balls.

March 16, 2010|By Mike DiGiovanna

Reporting from Peoria, Ariz. — You hear it in Arizona and Florida every spring. A veteran pitcher will get cuffed around in an exhibition game and pass it off as no big deal, telling reporters, "I was just getting my work in."

Sometimes, it's actually true.

Jered Weaver, an extreme fly-ball pitcher in his four big league seasons, began throwing a two-seam, sinking fastball in the playoffs in 2008, and he threw it occasionally in 2009, hoping to get a few more early-count, ground-ball outs.

Hoping to refine his two-seamer, Weaver threw it "80% of the time" in Tuesday's 4-3 exhibition win over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, a game in which the Angels right-hander threw 67 pitches in 3 1/3 innings.

The results weren't pretty. Weaver gave up three runs and four hits, walked five and hit a batter, and struck out four. But he wasn't beating himself up afterward.

"Everything felt strong -- I'll take this one with a grain of salt and move to the next start," Weaver said. "Thank God for spring. It's a time to get your work in and figure some things out, to be able to tweak some things, before the season."

Weaver is trying to figure out his two-seamer. He toyed with a different grip -- the one new teammate and sinker-ball specialist Joel Pineiro uses -- earlier this spring but decided to go back to his grip.

Though he struggled to find the strike zone Tuesday, he wasn't missing by much.

"I was starting it on the outside corner and it was diving off a little bit," Weaver said. "I need to start it a little more over the plate and let it work itself to the corner."

Weaver, who had a 50% fly-ball percentage last season, meaning half of the balls put in play against him were fly balls in play, is not about to give up on the pitch.

"My pitch count can run up there," Weaver said. "I'm a fly-ball pitcher. If I can get some more ground balls, it will help a lot."

Bumps and bruises

Injuries to Torii Hunter, Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu, the late arrival of Kendry Morales and the slower pace of Hideki Matsui's preparations have made it difficult for the Angels to find much offensive continuity in the first half of the exhibition season.

After Tuesday's win, their first win in seven games, the Angels (3-8-2) are hitting .245 and averaging 4.5 runs in 13 Cactus League games. They've lost as many games this spring as they did last spring, when they went 26-8.

But as long as they can field their regular lineup for the last 10 days or so of camp, Manager Mike Scioscia is confident the Angels will be ready for the regular season.

"If some of these bumps and bruises were to occur 10 days from now and guys were going to be out for four or five days, continuity would be an issue," Scioscia said.

"But if we can get a solid week to 10 days with our lineup out there, you're talking almost 30 at-bats for each player. You should see some continuity form."

Hunter returned Friday after missing a week because of a groin injury. Aybar, who has missed six games because of forearm stiffness, and Abreu, who has missed three games because of rib-cage tightness, could return by Friday.

Short hops

The Angels are off on Thursday, but it will be a regular work day for pitcher Ervin Santana, who is scheduled to throw four innings and about 60 pitches in a triple-A game against the San Francisco Giants in Tempe, Ariz.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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