MIAMI -- The Major League All-Star Game is three weeks away, but already there is published speculation that Jered Weaver will be positioned to start for the American League at Arizona's Chase Field.
"I'm thinking about my next start [on Sunday against the Dodgers] -- not the All-Star Game," Weaver said. "We'll see what happens when the time comes."
The Angels' ace made his first All-Star team last year, but was unable to make an appearance in the game -- owing to the new rule that those who start on the Sunday before the game are ineligible to pitch.
Weaver finished fifth in the AL Cy Young Award balloting last season, and he's putting up better numbers across the board this year. After going 13-12 with a 3.01 ERA in 34 starts, he is now 9-4 in 16 outings with a 2.01 ERA -- second best in the Majors behind Boston's Josh Beckett.
- 131 wins
- 121 wins
"It's always my goal to get better every year," Weaver said.
Only in the strikeout department is Weaver slightly down. After leading the Majors with 233 last year, he's eighth in MLB with 102.
"And that's not a bad thing," Weaver said. "I'll take those early-count outs I'm getting. Gets me deeper in games."
Scioscia: Angels' work ethic 'inspiring'
MIAMI -- His team hasn't had the type of first half anyone in the organization anticipated, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn't questioning anyone's effort. On the contrary, he's praising the attitude and approach his players have taken to their tasks -- despite a sub-.500 record.
"As far as working hard and getting ready to play," Scioscia said before Wednesday night's Interleague series finale against the Marlins, "these guys are inspiring.
"I don't know if it's fighting it, but definitely there are some guys where the frustration gets to them, and they try to hit a three-run home run with nobody on or strike everybody out. There's a natural progression of guys trying to be Superman. Our best games are when we get contributions up and down the lineup, and guys don't have to have super games. If we pressure teams, we're going to eventually score runs. It hasn't shown up as much as we need to, and that's part of the frustration."
The clubhouse is generally quiet -- a function of the personalities, but also a performance level that has turned players inward in search of answers.
"There's definitely an element of frustration in our clubhouse," Scioscia said. "I think everyone knows we should be playing at a higher level on a consistent basis. When you're not, there's a need to defuse some of that and understand it's the grind -- and you've got to keep going.
"Torii [Hunter], Vernon [Wells] and Bobby [Abreu] have gotten guys together and talked things out as players. Torii's multi-dimensional. He'll lead with mentoring players. The biggest leadership we need is by example -- a veteran presence on the field. Tough outs with men in scoring position -- that's the thing Torii, Vernon and Bobby bring. We need to expand that.
"As far as leading is concerned, it's great to mentor and help younger players keep their focus. But the type of leadership we really need is on the field, by example."
Hunter coming alive offensively
MIAMI -- Torii Hunter has been putting in extra time in the batting cage trying to straighten a few things out. It appears to be paying off with a recent surge -- 10 hits in his past 22 at-bats (.455 average), including a season-high four against the Marlins on Tuesday night.
"I've been working on my swing, getting out and driving the ball in the middle of the field," Hunter said. "I hit it hard all five times [on Tuesday] night. My out was a line drive right at the pitcher.
"This is a humbling game. You have to keep grinding it out, even if you're tired or hurting, not feeling like yourself. It's all about mental discipline. I've been doing it for so long, it's just part of who I am."
Hunter is tied with Boston's Adrian Gonzalez for the Major League lead in game-winning RBIs with 12. Hunter has played every game, the only Angels player to do so, and he has put everything he has into it -- physically and emotionally. It has been a season of struggle on a lot of levels, but nobody questions his desire, work ethic or leadership. When your best player is your hardest worker, it always elevates your team.
"We're working to turn this thing around," Hunter said. "These guys are really working hard and want to win."
Hunter tends to turn it on as the weather warms, as evidenced by his Major League-high 42 RBIs in Interleague Play over the past three seasons. He owns 147 Interleague RBIs and 40 homers in his career.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.