With Jered Weaver's fastball velocity falling, his earned-run average rising and his winless streak stretching into May, the Angels cannot afford to have their other high-priced starting pitcher, C.J. Wilson, suffer a serious injury or slide into an extended funk.
The left-hander gave the team a scare this last week when he had fluid drained from his pitching elbow, a procedure Wilson described as being "painless, preventive and no big deal."
Most players and coaches tend to downplay injuries, though Manager Mike Scioscia acknowledged that "you're always concerned when any one of your pitchers are nicked up or dealing with something." But Wilson may have nailed his prognosis on this one, much to the relief of the Angels.
Wilson did not get a decision in Friday night's 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants in AT&T Park, in which Joe Panik delivered a pinch-hit, bases-loaded, walk-off single off Angels reliever Joe Smith in the ninth inning.
But Wilson pitched superbly, showing no ill effects of the elbow discomfort that forced the Angels to push his last start back two days.
Wilson allowed two runs — one earned — and four hits in seven innings, striking out five and walking one, the latter figure significant because Wilson usually ranks among the league leaders in walks.
Wilson, who is 1-2 with a 2.72 ERA in five starts this season, worked ahead in counts, mixed his fastball, breaking balls and changeup effectively, and of his 94 pitches, 60 were strikes.
In fact, Wilson pitched so efficiently he may have pushed Scioscia into a questionable move in the seventh, when the manager let the pitcher bat off right-hander Jean Machi with runners on first and third, two outs and the score tied, 1-1.
The Angels had just tied the game when David Freese, who reached on a fielder's choice grounder and took third on C.J. Cron's hit-and-run grounder through a vacated second-base hole, scored on a single to center by Matt Joyce, who entered with a .134 average.
Chris Iannetta, whose average fell to .086 Friday night, struck out for the second out. Efren Navarro was available to hit from the left side, and Collin Cowgill, Drew Butera, Taylor Featherston and possibly Albert Pujols, who is slowed by a left-hamstring injury, were available from the right side.
But Wilson had thrown only 70 pitches to that point and looked strong, so Scioscia kept him in. Wilson, who singled in the third, flied out to center to end the inning.
Wilson gave up a run in the first when Nori Aoki led off with a double to left, took third on Matt Duffy's grounder to first and scored on Angel Pagan's sacrifice fly to center. But the run Wilson allowed in the seventh was unearned.
Wilson might have to undergo surgery to remove bone spurs in the elbow next winter, but he plans to pitch through any elbow issues this season. He will, however, cut back on his throwing regimen between starts. Instead of long-tossing the day after he pitches, he will not pick up a ball that day.
"Where I'm at right now, it makes more sense to throw off the mound more frequently than throwing long-toss more," he said. "We'll see how it goes after the first couple of starts and go from there."