As the sand descends in the hourglass of his career, Jered Weaver marches on, taking the ball every fifth day no matter how beat-up his body feels, how many miles he has racked up on his arm or how many starts he has left.
The Angels right-hander is in the final three weeks of the five-year, $85-million contract he signed in the summer of 2011, a season in which he was the American League All-Star game starter and one of baseball’s best pitchers.
Weaver, 33, has long since fallen off that perch, his dominance fading with the velocity of his fastball, but as he showed again on a sun-splashed Sunday in Angel Stadium, he might not be finished.
Weaver threw 6 2/3 strong innings in a 3-2 victory over the Texas Rangers, giving up two runs and four hits, two of them home runs by Adrian Beltre. He struck out eight batters, a season high, and walked two.
He kept a potent lineup off-balance by locating a fastball that touched 87 mph, a marked improvement over his early-season radar-gun readings, and mixing it with a changeup and a breaking ball that floated in as slow as 68 mph.
When Manager Mike Scioscia pulled him in the seventh inning, Weaver left to a standing ovation, the fans showing their appreciation for an 11-year veteran who may be down to his final four starts with the Angels.
Weaver, who ranks second on the franchise’s all-time list with 148 wins and third with 1,585 strikeouts, declined to say whether he wants to pitch next year — “We’ll talk about that on the last homestand,” he said — but he admitted that the crowd reaction Sunday made him feel a bit nostalgic.
“You come back from the road, you never know if you’ll see the same clubhouse guys again, you never know if it’s the last time you’ll walk down the tunnel to the field,” Weaver said. “It’s hard not to think about it.
“I’ve never been in this position before, not knowing what’s going to happen next year. It’s definitely a ball of confusion going on in my head, but I’m just trying to focus on pitching.”
Tightness in his shoulder, neck, back and hips has restricted Weaver’s strength and flexibility and sapped his fastball velocity, but in a season in which the rotation has been ravaged by injuries, Weaver is the only Angels pitcher who hasn’t missed a start.
“Weav has a way of getting it done,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He really knows his way around situations, around hitters. For the most part, he’s taken the ball, given us innings and given us a chance to win.”
Weaver’s results have been mixed. There have been good games, and plenty of bad ones, as his 11-11 record and career-high 5.25 earned-run average attest. He has given up 35 homers, tied for most in the league. But his uptick in velocity has him feeling a little more encouraged.
“Everything is starting to free up, and I’m getting a little stronger,” Weaver said. “It’s happened a little later than I thought, but my body is responding to the work I’ve been doing with the trainers and strength guy between starts.
“I’m feeling good. I’m glad I’ve finally got this thing figured out. It’s going to take a little time to get my body realigned again. Every start, it seems like it’s getting better … so it’s promising.”
Yunel Escobar led off the first inning with a homer, and Andrelton Simmons, who had one homer this season, on April 27, hit homers against right-hander Colby Lewis in the second and sixth innings for his third career multi-homer game.
Matt Shoemaker was discharged from a hospital Sunday after a followup CT scan to determine if there was further swelling on his brain came back negative.
The pitcher had surgery last week to stop bleeding on the brain after he was hit in the head by a Kyle Seager line drive in Seattle on Sept. 4. After an MRI test was inconclusive Saturday afternoon, Shoemaker was admitted to the hospital for a CT scan and remained overnight as a precaution.
“It was a little scare,” Scioscia said, “but I think he’s OK.”
The Angels, who face Seattle on Monday night, and the Rams, who open the season at San Francisco on Monday night, will play regular-season games representing Los Angeles on the same day for the first time since Oct. 4, 1964.
The Rams lost to the Baltimore Colts, 35-20, that day. The Angels beat Minnesota, 3-0, in a regular-season finale that was played in 1 hour 25 minutes.