Baseball / Sports

Weaver and Angels turn back Astros

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jered Weaver returned to the home clubhouse after one of his disappointing early-season starts and went straight to the weight room.

"I was really frustrated and just started throwing weights around," Weaver said after a 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night. "It just wasn't working. I knew I needed to get back to the way I used to lift."

Safe to say, the change has worked. Since Weaver switched to a different lifting program – more free weights – he's gained strength and endurance and even velocity on his fastball. The result is a stretch as good as any in his career.

Weaver pitched a two-hitter against the Astros, his first complete game since Aug. 6, 2012, the season in which he finished third in the Cy Young race. In his past seven starts, Weaver is 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA.

"It's more reminiscent of what we know Jered can do," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "There are some things he did tangibly and physically to get back to where he's throwing the ball as well as he is. Hopefully he can keep it for a long time, because it's fun to watch."

The 40,112 fans who filled Angel Stadium – they came for Albert Pujols bobbleheads and got to see the slugger snap a sixth-inning tie with his 505th homer – roared in the ninth inning as Weaver finished off the game.

Certainly many among them were the skeptics who watched Weaver go through a frustrating season in 2013. Although he was injured for two months, when he was on the mound he wasn't up to the standard that he'd set as one of baseball's true aces.

Now, he has a 2.85 ERA.

"One of my main goals was to prove I was still capable of going out and throwing the ball well for this club," Weaver said. "The first couple starts I started off slow but I knew I was healthy and there was some kind of change that needed be made. Hopefully we found that change."

SANTIAGO SENT DOWN

The other shoe dropped.

Right on top of Hector Santiago.

As Santiago was rotting in the bullpen for a week, it became increasingly obvious that the only way the Angels were going to get him straightened out enough to return to the rotation was to get him pitching every fifth day.

After the Angels optioned Santiago to Triple-A on Wednesday to do just that, he said he figured the move was inevitable.

"Something was going to happen," Santiago said. "I knew they wanted me as a starter. So it was like 'Am I just going to jump back into the rotation and try to get 100 pitches now, or am I going to be the guy going down?' Being around the game for so long, you know something's going to happen."

Santiago, who said he is scheduled to start Sunday for Salt Lake City, was pulled from the rotation nearly two weeks ago, with an 0-6 record and 5.19 ERA.

He has retired all eight batters he's faced in two relief outings since then, but the rotation has been pitching so well that the innings weren't there for Santiago to get consistent work out of the bullpen.

"We still have high expectations for Hector," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Right now, the only course of action for Hector is to go down and work things out and to pitch. ... The overriding issue with Hector is to go down there, find his delivery, repeat pitches, get that continuity and consistency he had in the spring, make pitches on a more regular basis. Once he does that, commands counts better, you're going to see a guy who is a major league pitcher."

TROUT OUT

Mike Trout was out of the Angels' lineup for the first time this season, resting a tight left hamstring. He'll get two straight days off, with today's off-day.

Trout said he was feeling better Wednesday, and "will be ready to go Friday for sure."

Trout said he started to feel something in his hamstring in the first inning of the May9 game in Toronto, when he stopped short of diving for a ball. He played three of the four games on the hard artifical turf at the Rogers Centre. He was the designated hitter in the other game.

Trout said he didn't tell trainers about the tightness until later, because he figured it would resolve itself. Even as it got a little worse this week, he didn't have any long-range concern.

"It's nothing to worry about," Trout said. "I'm not worried about it."

TOP PROSPECT HURT

Right-handed reliever R.J. Alvarez, one of the Angels' best prospects, has been placed on the minor league disabled list because of what GM Jerry Dipoto called "elbow tenderness."

Alvarez, who has not allowed a run in 19 innings at Double-A Arkansas, was evaluated by doctors in Southern California, and Dipoto said there was no indication of anything serious.

NOTES

As expected, Kole Calhoun was activated after spending more than five weeks on the disabled list because of a sprained ankle. Calhoun hit sixth, but Scioscia said he'll go back to the top of the order once the Angels have their full lineup, including Trout and Josh Hamilton, who is expected back Monday...

Left-hander Sean Burnett retired both batters he faced in his rehab assignment at Double-A. It was the first time in his six games at Arkansas that Burnett entered with runners on base. He has not allowed a run in his past five outings. Burnett, who hasn't pitched in the majors in nearly a year, could be activated as soon as Friday. ...

C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Garrett Richards will pitch this weekend against the Kansas City Royals. The Angels opted not to skip any of the starters, despite today's off-day. ...

The Angels extended their player development contract with Double-A Arkansas for two more years, through 2016. The Angels have had their Double-A team in Arkansas since 2001. ...

Former Angels closer Bryan Harvey will represent the team at the draft June5 at the MLB Network studio in New Jersey. It's a ceremonial position. The Angels front office staff will make its selections from Anaheim.

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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