What Arm Injury? Arizona’s Weaver Proved He Belongs in 2019

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(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Luke Weaver could have considered the forearm strain that cost him most of the season devastating … if not for what came before.

Weaver entered the 2019 season wanting, needing, affirmation that he belonged in a major league rotation after three bumpy seasons in the St. Louis organization, when flashes of brilliance were accompanied by periods of uncertainty. 

The way Weaver pitched the first two months of his first season with the Arizona Diamondbacks provided the necessary reinforcement. He had demonstrated to himself that he was suited for the job, and in the light of that realization, the forearm strain was merely an untimely inconvenience. 

“When I went down, I was at peace with it happening, because I went out there and I showed myself I could do it,” said Weaver, who was acquired from the Cardinals with catcher Carson Kelly and prospect Andy Young for Paul Goldschmidt in the offseason.

“I showed that I had the confidence. I think I showed this team and people around that this is hopefully a guy they want on their team. I believe I did that. This next year, for me personally, is going to be real exciting.”

Weaver was 4-3 with a 3.03 ERA in 11 starts before the injury, and he figures prominently in Arizona’s plans next season, where he could slot into a rotation along with Robbie Ray, Mike Leake and some combination of Zac Gallen, Taijuan Walker, Alex Young, Jon Duplantier and Taylor Clarke. Weaver ranked in the top 10 in the league in ERA and had made four straight quality starts before going out May 26.

“Once he got grounded with our concepts and took his stuff on out there and started to perform, he was operating at a very elite level. He was in a good spot,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “Unfortunate that he got hurt, but he figured it out quickly here and he is going to come back and be even better.”

Pitching every fifth day for the first time in his four major league seasons did wonders for Weaver, 26, who aded a cutter to his primary fastball/changeup mix (he also throws a curve). He commanded the strike zone at a career-high rate, averaging 4.9 strikeouts for every walk. He did not walk more than two in any start.

That, after going 7-11 with a 4.95 ERA in 30 games, 25 starts, for the Cardinals in 2018, when his strikeout to walk ratio was just better than 2:1.

“I just hated the way last year went,” said Weaver, the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 2014. “I understand it is a roller coaster. It’s going to be good. It’s going to be bad. Just could never grasp how things were going.

“I went to the offseason with a lot of expectations, and really just trying to get the love for baseball back again. To make it a game and not make it a job and just enjoy that. So I came in with a fresh attitude with a fresh team.”

After a strong start, Weaver was pulled in the sixth inning of a 6-2 victory at San Francisco on May 26 with forearm tightness that was later diagnosed as a strain. While that injury can be a precursor to Tommy John surgery, Weaver treated the injury with rest and rehabilitation and made a successful return to the mound at San Diego last weekend, retiring all six batters he faced while using only 19 pitches.

A “big check mark,” Weaver called getting back on the mound. “Being able to do that at least once before the season ends (was) a good thing heading into the offseason, knowing that everything is good. I got that out of the way.”

The recovery process also left him with a new perspective.

“Ultimately, things can always be worse than they are,” Weaver said. “We’re always thankful it didn’t go further than it did. Tommy John … it could even be worse than that. You could not be playing baseball again. I am very thankful that surgery wasn’t needed, and if I knew if I did what I need to do during the process, stayed the course, we were going to have a healthy arm. 

“Though I thought I was only going to miss one start.”

Laughs.

“It’s just a bonus to get back there on the field,” Weaver said.

“>

Diamondbacks Padres Baseball

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Luke Weaver could have considered the forearm strain that cost him most of the season devastating … if not for what came before.

Weaver entered the 2019 season wanting, needing, affirmation that he belonged in a major league rotation after three bumpy seasons in the St. Louis organization, when flashes of brilliance were accompanied by periods of uncertainty. 

The way Weaver pitched the first two months of his first season with the Arizona Diamondbacks provided the necessary reinforcement. He had demonstrated to himself that he was suited for the job, and in the light of that realization, the forearm strain was merely an untimely inconvenience. 

“When I went down, I was at peace with it happening, because I went out there and I showed myself I could do it,” said Weaver, who was acquired from the Cardinals with catcher Carson Kelly and prospect Andy Young for Paul Goldschmidt in the offseason.

“I showed that I had the confidence. I think I showed this team and people around that this is hopefully a guy they want on their team. I believe I did that. This next year, for me personally, is going to be real exciting.”

Giants Diamondbacks Baseball

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Weaver was 4-3 with a 3.03 ERA in 11 starts before the injury, and he figures prominently in Arizona’s plans next season, where he could slot into a rotation along with Robbie Ray, Mike Leake and some combination of Zac Gallen, Taijuan Walker, Alex Young, Jon Duplantier and Taylor Clarke. Weaver ranked in the top 10 in the league in ERA and had made four straight quality starts before going out May 26.

“Once he got grounded with our concepts and took his stuff on out there and started to perform, he was operating at a very elite level. He was in a good spot,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “Unfortunate that he got hurt, but he figured it out quickly here and he is going to come back and be even better.”

Pitching every fifth day for the first time in his four major league seasons did wonders for Weaver, 26, who aded a cutter to his primary fastball/changeup mix (he also throws a curve). He commanded the strike zone at a career-high rate, averaging 4.9 strikeouts for every walk. He did not walk more than two in any start.

That, after going 7-11 with a 4.95 ERA in 30 games, 25 starts, for the Cardinals in 2018, when his strikeout to walk ratio was just better than 2:1.

“I just hated the way last year went,” said Weaver, the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 2014. “I understand it is a roller coaster. It’s going to be good. It’s going to be bad. Just could never grasp how things were going.

“I went to the offseason with a lot of expectations, and really just trying to get the love for baseball back again. To make it a game and not make it a job and just enjoy that. So I came in with a fresh attitude with a fresh team.”

Braves Diamondbacks Baseball

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

After a strong start, Weaver was pulled in the sixth inning of a 6-2 victory at San Francisco on May 26 with forearm tightness that was later diagnosed as a strain. While that injury can be a precursor to Tommy John surgery, Weaver treated the injury with rest and rehabilitation and made a successful return to the mound at San Diego last weekend, retiring all six batters he faced while using only 19 pitches.

A “big check mark,” Weaver called getting back on the mound. “Being able to do that at least once before the season ends (was) a good thing heading into the offseason, knowing that everything is good. I got that out of the way.”

The recovery process also left him with a new perspective.

“Ultimately, things can always be worse than they are,” Weaver said. “We’re always thankful it didn’t go further than it did. Tommy John … it could even be worse than that. You could not be playing baseball again. I am very thankful that surgery wasn’t needed, and if I knew if I did what I need to do during the process, stayed the course, we were going to have a healthy arm. 

“Though I thought I was only going to miss one start.”

Laughs.

“It’s just a bonus to get back there on the field,” Weaver said.

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AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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