For the first decade of his professional baseball career, Jered Weaver abhorred stretching. Therefore, he didn’t do it. He avoided all but the most cursory forms of it.
So what if it hurt his flexibility? The Angels right-hander was good enough, inherently lanky enough, to withstand the ensuing elasticity issues. He excelled to a 113-60 record and a 3.24 earned-run average over his first eight big league seasons.
After his eighth season, 2013, he realized that at age 31 he needed more adaptability and began to stretch more. But he stopped each exercise when it hurt and didn’t produce many benefits.
And then, particularly last season, he began to struggle to pitch effectively, or pitch at all. Now, like an ancient fable, he must do the thing he hates if he wants to do the thing he loves: He must stretch to survive.
Weaver, 33, spoke Sunday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, where the Angels are continuing spring-training exercises. He has thrown two bullpen sessions here and earned positive reviews from the team.
He worked hard at stretching this off-season, he said, and began throwing one month earlier than usual to see if the stretching was working. It was. Weaver said his stretching and massage work was primarily “old school,” with “a lot of knees and elbows.”
“Yoga was too intimate for me,” he said.
“I’d like to play for as long as I can,” he said. “But if I go through another season like last year — with not just the frustration of the numbers but how my body felt — your heart and your mind can only do so much. Sometimes, your body pulls the reins back and tells you you need to slow down a little bit.”
Weaver, 33, said that was what happened in 2015, when he posted a career-worst 4.64 ERA and his first losing record, 7-12. He still reveled in outsmarting hitters, but a sore left hip and overall tightness across his body often prevented him from doing so. There were nights he could not muster a fastball faster than his opponent’s changeup. It was all frustrating and at times even embarrassing, he said.
Nagy said the same things about Weaver that Butcher did: Because he is 6 feet 7 and throws across his body with a variety of pitches, he can survive with less velocity than most if he has command. Of course, Weaver must feel flexible to have command.
“If my body feels good, I’m gonna be good,” he said Sunday. “If it doesn’t feel good, then it’s gonna be a struggle.
Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said he is excited by Weaver’s self-reports.
“Hopefully, it’s going to translate into what he needs to do on the mound,” Scioscia said.
Weaver expressly said he was smart enough to be aware there exists a significant chance he won’t pitch for the Angels beyond 2016.
One day in January, Weaver said, he finally crossed the relative pain threshold. What once caused him pain now elicited a feeling of weightlessness, a feeling he has come to find oddly awesome.
Weaver flashed a grin when asked if one year of correct, committed stretching could undo a decade of neglect.
“I hope so,” he said. “I only got one more year to figure it out, right?”
The Angels have hired former major leaguers Brendan Harris and Ben Francisco as pro scouts. Harris, an ex-infielder, played for the team for the majority of 2013. Francisco was a Yankee while Angels General Manager Billy Eppler worked in New York in 2013. . . . The team’s position players must report for physicals by Tuesday. The Angels are expecting Albert Pujols, who’s recovering from foot surgery, to arrive at camp Monday.