Jered Weaver to take mound with chance for strikeout crown
Angels pitcher Jered Weaver enters Friday night's start against the Texas Rangers with a chance to become the American League strikeout king, which seems remarkable for a right-hander who is not considered overpowering.
Weaver, whose fastball hovers in the 91-mph range and tops out at about 93 mph, has 229 strikeouts, three fewer than AL leader Felix Hernandez (232). But the Seattle Mariners announced Thursday that Hernandez, who leads the league with 249 2/3 innings pitched, won't make Sunday's scheduled start.
Boston left-hander Jon Lester ranks third in the league with 225 strikeouts but will not pitch again this season, and Detroit's Justin Verlander is fourth with 219 strikeouts. So, if Weaver strikes out four in his final start of the season, he will lead the league in strikeouts.
"If it happens, it happens," Weaver said. "If it doesn't, it doesn't."
Health has been a big factor for Weaver, who is 13-12 with a 3.02 earned-run average and might have approached 20 wins with better run support.
"The last few years I've had to throw different because of tendinitis, but my shoulder has felt good all year," Weaver said. "The last few years I've had to throw through some stuff."
Weaver has been a strike-throwing machine, getting ahead of hitters and putting them away with all three pitches: his fastball, curve and changeup. Of his 3,625 pitches this season, 2,360 of them, or 65%, have been strikes.
"One thing about the league is you have to trust your stuff," Weaver said. "I try to get ahead with strike one, and if I don't, I want to at least throw a strike on the first two pitches."
In his first few years, Weaver didn't really have a put-away pitch. He'd get two strikes on a batter and often give up several foul balls. This season, he has used all three of his pitches to put hitters away.
"It's been a mix of everything -- changing speeds with every pitch has been a key for me," Weaver said. "I throw the four-seam fastball and two-seam fastball and change speeds on both. Anything you can do to keep the hitters off-balance is good. If you throw 95 mph, you can blow it by people. When you throw 91, you have to figure out other ways to get people out."
-- Mike DiGiovanna in Arlington, Texas
Photo: Jered Weaver at Angel Stadium. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times