Struggling Weaver Is Rationing Ks

Times Staff Writer

Amid the statistics after yet another ugly start, this one stands out: Jeff Weaver has faced 49 batters this spring and struck out one.

A declining strikeout rate correlates strongly to declining performance, but the Angels say spring statistics correlate weakly to the regular season. Weaver is a ground-ball pitcher whose strikeouts tend to come on breaking balls, and he had not used a breaking ball before Thursday.

"He's throwing strikes early in the count, and guys in spring training are hacking," pitching coach Bud Black said.

Weaver, the Angels' $8.3-million free-agent signee, gave up five runs and nine hits in four innings of a 7-6 loss to the Chicago Cubs. In three outings, his earned-run average is 15.43, and opponents are batting .457 against him.

He said Derek Lowe, his Dodger teammate last season, has called to kid him about being right on track for the regular season. "Right now, it's more about feeling comfortable mechanically and physically," Weaver said.

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If Garret Anderson's foot injury prevents him from playing left field within one week, the Angels will try to prepare him to start the season as the designated hitter. The Angels can find another left fielder, Manager Mike Scioscia said, but they desperately need Anderson's bat in the lineup.

"Our depth, as far as looking for guys to hit in the middle of the order, isn't there," Scioscia said.

Juan Rivera batted fourth and played left field Thursday. Tim Salmon, Dallas McPherson, Kendry Morales and Robb Quinlan are competing for two or three spots among position players, depending upon whether Anderson opens the season on the disabled list.

General Manager Bill Stoneman has said the Angels have sufficient depth to withstand the possible loss of Anderson and said Thursday he does not anticipate a trade.

"You're always pursuing things, but the likelihood is the team is going to come from what's here," he said. "In terms of a middle-of-the-order bat, those guys aren't flying around out there."

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The Angels were not pleased that closer Francisco Rodriguez, who reported to camp eight days after the other pitchers, didn't return from the World Baseball Classic on Thursday. His Venezuelan teammates -- Rivera, Kelvim Escobar and Edgardo Alfonzo -- all showed up.

Stoneman said he had no idea why Rodriguez did not travel with the other players but said WBC rules do not state how soon a player must rejoin his club once his national team is eliminated. Rodriguez is expected in camp today; Scioscia said he is scheduled to pitch.

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