Weaver ready for fresh start
Veteran righty signs one-year $8.325 million deal
SEATTLE -- More than three months have passed since Jeff Weaver helped propel the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series victory, yet the memories from his dazzling eight-inning effort in Game 5 are as intact as they were that cool October night."I wish that everyone can go through something like that ... it was a dream come true," Weaver said. "When you go through times like that, you want to get back to times like that and feel the same emotions. That's the plan." No, the 30-year-old Weaver didn't present a "World-Series-or-bust" battle cry during his press conference on Tuesday at Safeco Field, a day after the right-hander signed a one-year contract worth $8.325 million with an additional $1 million in incentives. But Weaver certainly feels like he's latching onto the Mariners at just the perfect time. "It's a team that's on the verge of turning the corner and having some great seasons," he said. "So it's nice to be a part of that. It's a fresh start for me once again." Not that leaving St. Louis left a sour taste with Weaver by any means. After all, it was Weaver who allowed one earned run over eight innings in the World Series clincher against the Tigers, ending a sometimes trying and tumultuous season that had plenty of peaks and valleys. In fact, Weaver figured he would end up back in St. Louis, as Cardinals management told Weaver and his agent, Scott Boras, early in the offseason that they wanted to keep Weaver in 2007. "After the season ends and you have certain people telling you they'd like to have you back and you're a piece to the puzzle and it's two, three months later ... things are still dragging," Weaver said. "You want to feel wanted." The Cardinals reportedly offered Weaver a two-year contract, though the base salary of between $5 million and $6 million for the first year was less than Weaver will earn with Seattle. So Weaver -- who has a career record of 86-101 with a 4.55 ERA -- became the third starting pitcher added this winter to the Mariners' starting rotation
"We changed a lot with this signing," Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi said. "We think we improved that one spot in the rotation. This helps us in so many ways. This is a huge upgrade for us at a time when we needed the huge upgrade."While Weaver's signing essentially ends the Jake Woods versus Cha Seung Baek debate over who will begin the season as the team's fifth starter, Bavasi indicated on Tuesday that Weaver is capable of pitching higher in the rotation. That certainly wasn't the case last season when Weaver struggled mightily with the Los Angeles Angels, going 3-10 with a 6.29 ERA in 16 starts before the team designated him for assignment in July. Weaver cited several contributing factors for his struggles -- poor mechanics, distrust in his stuff and the continuous comparisons to younger brother Jered, who was 11-2 with the Angels after being promoted from Triple-A in May. "It was getting started on the wrong foot, having a couple of tough starts early and instead of working through those problems and trusting my mechanics, I overdid it and made too many adjustments and tried anything to make it better quick," Weaver said. As for being on the same team has his younger brother, Weaver said, "It was special for me to be there for his first start and see him grow. I was very proud."
But Weaver grew wary of the comparisons between the two from the media.
"I think this time around we're keeping our thoughts and ideas to ourselves," Weaver said.Shortly after he was designated for assignment by the Angels, the team agreed to trade him to St. Louis for cash considerations and Minor Leaguer Terry Evans, who certainly didn't pay the Angels the immediate dividends that Weaver did. After discussions with Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, Weaver got back to his old self -- trusting himself and his stuff. Duncan didn't try to micromanage, and Weaver appreciated that. He made a few minor adjustments that paid off, like sliding to the third base side of the pitching rubber and elevating his arm during his delivery so that his arm wouldn't drag behind him, leaving his pitches flat. Those changes were certainly prevalent in October. Weaver became the only Cardinals pitcher to win a game in the Division Series, the NLCS and the World Series. All told, he was 3-2 with a 2.43 ERA in the postseason. He started the season feeling lost and ended it with a World Series ring. And now he's in Seattle, part of a revamped rotation that will include three new faces -- his and those of Miguel Batista and Horacio Ramirez. "I'm very excited to be here," Weaver said. "It's been known in the last couple of years, for me, that change is good. I'm excited to pursue a new venture."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.