One start after giving up a career-high-tying four home runs in a 7-4 loss at Houston, Angels ace Jered Weaver allowed four runs and three hits in 6 2/3 innings of an eventual 7-6 loss to the New York Mets on April 12, not a horrible start but not up to the veteran right-hander's standards.
"I felt good physically but wasn't getting to where I needed to be," said Weaver, who was 0-2 with a 5.79 earned run average after that game. "I came in and was really frustrated. I started throwing weights around again because what I was doing wasn't working, and I knew I needed to get back to the way I used to lift."
For years, Weaver opted for weight machines and resistance training over free weights because he thought it would ease the tension on a balky biceps tendon that had bothered him for four or five years.
But he scrapped that program in mid-April, incorporating more free weights and heavy lifting to go with his usual extensive massage therapy, and the results have been eye-opening.
Weaver needed only 94 pitches Wednesday night to throw his first complete game since August 2012, allowing one run and two hits, striking out five and walking one to lead the Angels to a 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros. Weaver is 5-3 with a 2.85 on the season and 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA in his last seven starts.
"It was frustrating, man," Weaver said. "I felt good early, but I wasn't getting results. You feel great, but something wasn't working the way it was supposed to work. Now that I've changed my strength program, I feel there's progress that has been made, and it's shown over last five or six starts."
It's not so much the increased velocity of Weaver's fastball, which has jumped from the 86-87-mph range to the 88-89-mph range, but his ability to maintain that velocity and pair it with excellent command deeper into games.
"One of the biggest things is how hard he works between starts," catcher Hank Conger said of Weaver. "His endurance, his stamina looks great from 80-100 pitches. He knows he can locate without having to hump up to get anything extra on his pitches. It wasn't an overnight thing. He gradually got better and better."
Weaver has pitched well with diminished velocity in recent years because he has always been able to keep batters off-balance with a wide array of off-speed and breaking pitches that he can throw for strikes in any count. But even a little uptick in velocity can make a huge difference.