D-backs’ Luke Weaver feels strong, ready after injury-shortened 2019

Jul 8, 2020, 7:30 AM

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Luke Weaver throws during an intrasquad baseball game Tuesday, July 7,...

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Luke Weaver throws during an intrasquad baseball game Tuesday, July 7, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

We are learning more and more how many unique twists the COVID-19 pandemic can put on Major League Baseball players and their teams preparing for a return to play.

For pitchers, maintaining a throwing schedule after ramping up in spring training for the real thing was surely offsetting.

But there were extra variables at play for Arizona Diamondbacks starter Luke Weaver.

Weaver missed nearly four months last season, from late May to late September, because of a forearm strain. He pitched two innings near the end of the season before being shut down, which was more of a checkmark than a signifier he was back.

The right-hander still wasn’t fully recovered coming out of spring training, so his road to getting there has been put in a strange spot.

“It was tough in a way where we didn’t know,” Weaver said Tuesday. “That date (to return) could have been at any point.”

The date became July 3 for the start of summer camp, and while waiting, Weaver kept his program intact for his arm to be good.

“The rest doesn’t hurt anybody,” Lovullo said of what that did to Weaver’s status.

“Credit to him coming in as ready he did.”

Weaver is fresh off a few bullpen sessions the past couple days and two instances pitching live back home in Florida. On Tuesday, he faced live batters, throwing 47 pitches over three innings.

That makes him feel compelled to say he’s strong and ready for the 2020 season.

“After throwing today, it just kind of all meshed together pretty well,” he said.

A fair chunk of the optimism for the D-backs’ pitching staff is predicated off the 2019 seasons that Weaver and fellow young starter Zac Gallen had.

In 2019 over his 12 starts, Weaver was second to only Zack Greinke in both ERA (2.94) and WHIP (1.073) among D-backs starters with at least 10 outings. Gallen didn’t qualify with only eight starts or else his ERA (2.84) would have been the best.

Weaver’s career has had an abnormal arc, as despite being in his fifth MLB season, he’s only managed 55 total starts. That was due to some rough beginnings with the St. Louis Cardinals, along with the injury last year for the D-backs.

Regardless, Lovullo thinks that young players reach a certain threshold where they’ve contributed enough to feel like they belong. The Arizona manager thinks his 26-year-old right-hander has met that mark, noting how the previous setbacks can help him.

“I think Luke is there, believe it or not,” Lovullo said. “I know that it’s probably been frustrating for him from time to time.

“Those are all things that add up and get you to that next level.”

Now, the question still remains if Weaver is indeed 100% for this upcoming season. With starting pitcher Mike Leake opting out of the season, there is already less starting depth for Arizona to lean on if he’s not.

Both Lovullo and Weaver wouldn’t commit to a pitch or inning number just yet, but Weaver all but guaranteed he will be able to get to at least five innings as the year begins, and Lovullo is confident in how Weaver looks.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with where he’s at percentage-wise,” Lovullo said.

“He looked like he could pitch in a baseball game tomorrow and that’s pretty good for me.”

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