Reporting from St. Petersburg, Fla. — Pitcher Jered Weaver and catcher Hank Conger appear to be forming quite a bond.
Consider this: In his short big-league career, Conger has started three games that Weaver has pitched and the right-hander has dominated each time, allowing three runs and striking out 12 in 20 2/3 innings.
As for Conger, he got his first big-league hit and first run batted in while catching Weaver in Cleveland last year. And Tuesday, while guiding Weaver to a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, Conger crushed his first major league home run.
“He’s a great catcher back there,” Weaver said. “He does his homework before the game. He’s really prepared. He’s working his way into his own. If he stays with it, he’s going to have a great, long career.”
Of course Weaver has the ability to make most catchers look good. He held Tampa to a run in 6 2/3 innings Tuesday, his 29th quality start since the start of the last season. Only reigning Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez has more over that span.
And he hasn’t given up more than three runs in any of his last nine outings, dating to last August.
“He probably has the best control I’ve ever seen,” Conger said.
Conger traded a fan an autographed baseball and bat for his first home run ball, which he said will go to his dad. The memories he’ll keep for himself.
“It felt awesome. Just running around the bases,” he said.
Left-hander Scott Downs, who began the season on the disabled list with a broken toe, threw 15 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday then did some fielding drills, He is expected to make a minor league rehab appearance with Class A San Bernardino, possibly as early as Thursday, and could be reactivated over the weekend.
Erick Aybar missed his second straight game with discomfort in his side and isn’t expected to play in the field until Friday at the earliest, the Angels said.
Kendrys Morales, out since last May with a broken ankle, moved well in a fast-paced fielding drill at first base. The Angels had hoped to test his ankle with some straight-line running while in St. Petersburg but that has been pushed back indefinitely, Manager Mike Scioscia said.
And right-hander Joel Pineiro, on the DL with shoulder tightness, took another step forward in his comeback by throwing off flat ground Tuesday.
Scioscia said Scott Kazmir, who gave up five runs while getting five outs Sunday, would get one more start but was noncommittal beyond that. “Kaz is working on some drills right now,” he said. “We’ll continue to look at couple of things.” … Vernon Wells, who went three for 18 in the season-opening series in Kansas City, was on the field for early batting practice more than four hours before Tuesday’s game, then went hitless in four at-bats, dropping his average to .136.