As Mike Butcher walked to the mound, he had no reason to believe this visit would be any different from any of the hundreds he has made as the Angels' pitching coach.
He might offer a pitcher a suggestion, ask him how he feels, maybe just stall for a couple minutes so a reliever can get ready. But never does he remove the pitcher. With the Angels, that job belongs to Manager Mike Scioscia.
On Sunday, however, there was Butcher, pointing to the bullpen to summon a new pitcher. Jered Weaver asked out, a move as unusual and impressive as his reinvention as a velocity-challenged ace. As the Angels thumped the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, 9-3, praise for Weaver echoed from all corners of the clubhouse.
"It takes a man to tell you he wants to come out of the game," Butcher said. "Hats off to him."
The Angels (19-17) climbed two games above .500 for the first time in two years. As Hank Conger homered and drove in a career-high five runs, and Howie Kendrick collected three hits, the Angels beat Toronto for the third straight day — they go for the series sweep Monday — and won for the eighth time in 12 games.
If you knew nothing but the numbers in the box score, you would say Weaver had a pretty good day. He won his fourth consecutive decision, giving up one run — Jose Reyes scored from second base on a ground ball to second base — and four hits in 6 1/3 innings. In his last five starts, Weaver is 4-0 with a 1.71 earned-run average.
However, if you know Weaver as an uber-competitor, not shy about speaking out when he feels Scioscia has yanked him too soon, then what happened in the seventh inning was extraordinary.
The Angels led, 7-1, and Weaver had not given up a hit to 17 consecutive batters. His fastball has gotten a little bit more life lately — he even hit 90 mph on one pitch Sunday — and he was masterfully mixing fastballs in the 80s, changeups in the 70s, and curves in the 60s.
Suddenly, with one out, Adam Lind doubled and Dioner Navarro singled, and the Jays had as many hits in that inning as they did in the previous six. The Angels asked Michael Kohn to start warming up in the bullpen. Weaver walked Juan Francisco on five pitches, the last one an 84-mph fastball in the dirt.
"I didn't have any command of my fastball," Weaver said.
With Colby Rasmus due up, Scioscia sent Butcher to the mound, for a brief chat with Weaver.
"We felt good about him matching up against Rasmus," Scioscia said. "Butch went out to give him a little breather."
As Butcher and Weaver talked with catcher Conger, Weaver expressed his concern about losing touch on his fastball, with a good fastball hitter coming up, and the chance Rasmus might guess — correctly — on an off-speed pitch.
Next thing you knew, Butcher was calling for Kohn, who figured Weaver had one more batter, at least.
"I was surprised," Kohn said. "I was warming up, taking my time, and they said, 'You're in the game.'"
Butcher emphasized that Weaver "didn't beg to come out of the game," but for Weaver to even broach the idea stunned Conger.
"I was a little shocked," Conger said. "He always loves taking the ball."
Weaver doesn't want to be turned into a folk hero for asking out of the game. He certainly has no plans to do it again, since once was humbling enough.
"It took a lot for me to do that," he said. "Sometimes, you've got to swallow your pride."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times