Weaver adds third Opening Day start to resume
Halos righty takes ball after leading MLB in strikeouts in '10
KANSAS CITY -- For Jered Weaver, Opening Day assignments are starting to become a habit he wouldn't mind keeping for a while.
For the third time in four seasons, Weaver has earned the distinction as the Angels meet the Royals at 1:10 p.m. PT on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium.
"It's obviously an honor," Weaver said, "but we have four other guys who just as easily could be going out there."
At 28, having added muscle to his frame and maturity to his game, Weaver has emerged as one of the Majors' premier starters by any measure.
Fifth in the American League Cy Young Award balloting last year, he led the Majors in strikeouts with 233 and established a career high with 224 1/3 innings. His 13-12 record was as deceiving as the identical record put together by Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez in Seattle.
Offensive and defensive support were inconsistent for Weaver, but he didn't let it impact him in a negative way. He kept taking the ball and giving his team quality starts.
Weaver's sweeping delivery enables him to hide the ball from hitters, making his low-90s fastball look about 5 mph faster to hitters.
Weaver's success has coincided with a near mastery of an assortment of offspeed stuff, notably a changeup and slow curveball that throw hitters off balance. He also snaps off a deadly slider.
"You've got to be able to control the offspeed pitches in fastball counts to be successful," Weaver said.
Manager Mike Scioscia would like to see his ace pick up where he left off last season.
"He gave us consistency and pitched at a high level the entire season," Scioscia said. "He didn't weaken at all, even though he exceeded his career high in innings by a large number. He carried his stuff and his competitiveness throughout the season and kept us in the game almost every time out."
Weaver averaged 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings, third in the AL. His 233 strikeouts represented the highest season strikeout total by an Angels pitcher since Nolan Ryan notched 260 in 1978.
In half of Weaver's 34 starts, the Halos produced three or fewer runs. Eleven times, they scored two or fewer. Ten times Weaver went at least seven innings and allowed no more than one run.
He maintained his dominance in Cactus League play this spring, racking up 21 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings. Including 11 strikeouts he rang up in a Triple-A camp game, he had 32 in 25 innings.
Weaver issued only two walks all spring, demonstrating pinpoint control.
His three Opening Day starts leave him two behind franchise leader Mike Witt, who drew the honor from 1985-89.
"It's a cool thing," Weaver said. "Obviously, I was able to do it [in 2008 and 2010]. I don't take it as being more special than being one of five [starters]. I don't build it up too much.
"When Sosh gives me the ball, I'll take it. We've got five guys he can hand the ball to here."
Weaver pitched well but lost the 2008 opener in Minnesota, 3-2, but was dominant last year in dispatching the Twins, 6-3, at home on Opening Day.
"That one last year was pretty special," Weaver said. "I had a lot of family and friends there."
Weaver is 3-2 with a 3.90 ERA in five career starts in Kansas City.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.