Angels right-hander Jered Weaver faced Class-A hitters for four innings Tuesday afternoon and said he felt great in his ultimate test before returning to a major league mound.
Two hours later, he leaned back at his locker and struck his most defiant tone yet about detractors.
“Haters equals motivation for me,” Weaver said. “I feed off of it.”
Weaver then talked about how he did not want those critics to praise him when he succeeded this season. The 33-year-old right-hander was asked whether he always has been so affected by the opinion of others.
“I’ve just always kept it in,” he said. “Now it’s coming out. ... I’m tired of being professional. This is what I do. ... I don’t do this to not be good. I do this to be good.
“I want to be the best, and I was there at one point. Then I hit a bump in the road, and every bump in the road is a chance for you to rise and show people that it’s still in there.”
From 2010 to 2012, Weaver’s 2.73 earned-run average was the best in the American League and second-best to Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers in the majors.
He remained effective despite declining velocity in 2013 and 2014. But his strikeout rate dropped precipitously last season and his ERA ballooned to 4.64.
This spring, he struggled to surpass 80 mph with his fastball and underwent tests after experiencing tightness in his neck and shoulder.
“You don’t go out there with 80 miles an hour and not have confidence,” he said. “Has it been fun? No. But I’m not gonna let the opposing people know that. I still have to go out there and be the competitor and not let my emotions get the best of me. I’ve still gotta go out there and know that, even if I don’t have my good stuff, those guys are still on their toes because I still know how to pitch.”
Weaver will make his season debut Sunday against the Texas Rangers, whom he held to two runs in 12 innings last season even though he walked more Rangers than he struck out and topped out at 86 mph.
Weaver and Manager Mike Scioscia said his velocity increased as Tuesday’s simulated game wore on. Weaver said he hit 86 mph more than once; Scioscia would not offer specific numbers, citing their “internal” nature.
“I thought he made progress, for sure,” Scioscia said. “As he got into his second inning, you saw his stuff start to pick up. He threw the ball well. Hopefully, it’s the start of him getting where he needs to be.”
Weaver is trying a three-quarters arm slot, a few degrees down from how he used to throw. He is still resorting to his traditional arm slot on occasion.
“It’s going to take repetitions to get it,” he said. “I know that it’s gonna take some work to get back to where I want to be. The motivation for that is all the people that don’t think I can get back. I’ve had to prove a lot of people wrong since I came out of high school.”
Weaver went so far as to “guarantee” his old, dominant self will return for the Angels this season. He was asked why he felt compelled to do so.
“Because I already saw a glimpse of it today,” he said.
Scioscia was unwilling to confirm it, but the Angels’ pregame notes had left-hander Hector Santiago starting Thursday against Texas, right-hander Matt Shoemaker on Friday and right-hander Garrett Richards on Saturday. Coupled with Weaver’s scheduled start Sunday, that would give left-hander Andrew Heaney an extra day of rest before a Monday start in Oakland. … The Angels’ bonus pool for the international signing year beginning July 2 ranks 20th in MLB at $2,217,300. They cannot spend more than $300,000 on a particular player.