Angels' Weaver: Years of avoiding stretching led to decline
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Jered Weaver always kept up with his cardiovascular work. He never skipped a day in the weight room.
But stretching? The Los Angeles Angels right-hander hated and avoided it. And Weaver is convinced the ensuring stiffness and loss of flexibility led to a steady decline that bottomed out in his painful and poor 2015 season.
''Last year it was just pitching with competitiveness. It was going out there kind of naked, to tell you the truth,'' Weaver said Sunday. ''But I was going to go out there and take the ball. I was able to keep us in the game sometimes. At other times it was pretty frustrating and embarrassing.''
The three-time All-Star saw his fastball velocity decline for a third straight year into the mid-80s mph, according to FanGraphs. He finished 7-12, the first losing record of his career and the first time he hadn't reached 10 wins. His 4.64 ERA was a career-worst, his 90 strikeouts a career-low and he threw only 159 innings.
''Well, '13 is when the decline started happening,'' the 33-year-old Weaver said. ''I started feeling stuff tightening up through that season and kind of fell off going into '14 and obviously last year. Ten or 11 years of bad maintenance as far as stretching goes has caught up to me.''
Weaver spent the offseason in what he called ''pain and agony'' as he learned how to stretch again in lengthy sessions. Now his hip no longer hurts when he sits up in bed. He's no longer feel dull pain when he walks. He says he's ''five times'' better than last year.
''The other day I woke up and I said, `Man, this is how your body is supposed to feel?''' Weaver said.
But can an offseason fixing his body make up for for years of neglect?
''I hope so,'' Weaver said. ''I've only got one more year to figure it out, right?''
Indeed, Weaver enters the final year of his contract. He'll make $20 million this season, ace money, even though he's no longer the No. 1. With the club's payroll nearing the luxury tax threshold and Weaver's production declining, he knows this could be his final season in Anaheim.
''I've given everything I have to this organization. But I'm not stupid,'' Weaver said. ''I know that business becomes part of the game at some point. Whether the Angels want to keep me around, I can't say I didn't have a blast here.
''But I've still got one year left and my focus is getting myself to where we can be, and that's the World Series.''
Manager Mike Scioscia needs an effective Weaver to help improve on an 85-win season that left the Angels out of the 2015 playoffs. He believes Weaver looks ''real good'' so far.
But Scioscia said there's a long way to go to see if Weaver can return to near the level that saw him record 223 strikeouts in 2010, post a 2.41 ERA a year later and a 20-5 record in 2012.
''There's no adrenaline. He's not out there trying to throw 92 mph,'' Scioscia said. ''But as far as his delivery and the ball coming out, (catching coach) Steve Soliz was raving about that he has that easy velocity again. We'll see where he is.''
Weaver thinks his ''lankiness'' is back. His range of motion has improved dramatically. He's pain-free, stretching for up to an hour every day and wants to pitch past 2016.
He'd like to stay with the Angels, too, but acknowledged he must get better or he may not have much of a future anywhere.
''It's no secret, obviously, it's the last year of my contract,'' Weaver said. ''Who knows what happens after this? I'd like to play for as long as I can. But if I go through another season like last year, not just the frustration of the numbers, but jus as my body felt, your heart and mind can only do so much.''