As Jason Vargas idled outside the interview room at Angels Stadium, waiting his turn on the podium, he crossed paths with one of his closest friends in baseball — and his opponent in the first game of the American League Division Series. Vargas and Jered Weaver?
“We go back a while,” Vargas said.
When Vargas transferred to Long Beach State for the 2004 season, the pitching staff was headlined by Weaver, a 6-7 future first-round pick. Vargas was taken in the second round that year. Their paths diverged, but they maintained a bond. Weaver said his family had a vacation planned with the Vargases during the offseason.
“He’s one of those special guys that comes into your life, and I don’t really talk to too many people that you come in contact with away from playing baseball,” Weaver said on Wednesday. “You kind of lose relationships and things of that nature, but that’s one relationship that I’ve held on to through the years. It’s nice to be able to call him and talk to him.”
They played together again in 2013. Then Vargas departed for free agency, and a four-year, $32 million deal with Kansas City. Weaver already had scored a five-year, $85 million extension with the Angels that carries through 2016. He is the leader of this rotation, especially with the late-season injury to Garrett Richards, and is set up to start game four on short rest.
Weaver, 18-9, 3.59 ERA, utilizes a unique arsenal. His fastball sits at 86 mph. But his cross-fire arm action and height add to his deception. He threw his curveball, a 69-mph bender, more than ever in 2014. He passed 200 innings this season for the first time in three years, and struck out 7.1 batters per nine, his highest rate since 2011.
“I know Weaver does a good job of getting ahead and changing speeds,” manager Ned Yost said. “He’s a lot like Vargas, you know, you just don’t know what you’re going to get. He works the throttle. When you start looking soft, he goes hard. When you start looking hard, he goes soft.
“He’s got tremendous command of his pitches. So you’re going to go up and try to have good at-bats and get in a hitter’s count, and when you get a pitch, you can’t miss it.”
Here are the matchup numbers for Weaver against the Royals’ expected starting lineup:
1. Alcides Escobar: 2-for-8, .250/.250/.250.
2. Nori Aoki: 1-for-3, .333/.333/.333.
3. Lorenzo Cain: 0-for-4, .000/.333/.000
4. Eric Hosmer: 0-for-4, .000/.200/.000
5. Billy Butler: 6-for-29, .207/.233/.345
6. Alex Gordon: 4-for-20, .200/.360/.350
7. Salvador Perez: 0-for-2, .000/.000/.000.
8. Omar Infante: 0-for-3, .000/.000/.000.
9. Mike Moustakas: 1-for-6, .167/.167/.333
FROM THE STAR
How did the Royals reach the playoffs? How did they come from behind to defeat Oakland? That’s what speed do.
Sam Mellinger wrote a column about Salvador Perez.
Vahe Gregorian wrote a column about Ned Yost.
Tod Palmer wrote about rookie sensation Brandon Finnegan.
HERE IS SOME ROCK MUSIC
“Dishonest” by Daisyhead.