Besides the film Christmas Vacation seeming to be on every time he was near a television set, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Luke Weaver also spent the holiday season enjoying some snow–in Tallahassee, Florida.
“It was pretty crazy,” shared Weaver, who grew up in the Sunshine State. “I knew that there was a chance of some flurries or something like that…I just woke up, my alarm, getting some breakfast, ready to go workout soon, and I looked out the window and I just see snow and started freaking out. I felt like a dog running in circles. I woke up my wife, ‘get up, get up it’s snowing outside you won’t believe it’. So we go out there and stand in the snow, got video–had to share it. It only lasted, it seemed like we were out there for five minutes and then it just automatically stopped. Such a rare moment to get it on video.”
I know I know it’s only snow… but this is Florida. Next is Big Foot pic.twitter.com/VV0cqUalGe
— Luke Weaver (@DreamWeava7) January 3, 2018
Besides enjoying the holidays, Weaver has been preparing for 2018 and is not taking for granted the expectations that he should be regular in the Cardinals starting rotation.
“The goal is to try and make the team out of camp,” he said. “Hopefully make a good impression and look good down in Jupiter in some games and hopefully contribute and be of some help. Just trying to get a little bigger, put on some weight and see if I can be a little durable and hold up some innings for them.”
Listed at 6’2 and 170 pounds, Weaver has been walking the line of trying to add weight, but also keep flexibility to not alter his mechanics.
“Eating became a job for the last couple of months,” said Weaver. “Pretty much just doubling everything I’ve been doing. It can be upwards of 5,000 calories. You see some of those types of diets those big time athletes do in order to bulk up, but really just trying to get a lot of food intake and as far as workouts, just trying to do more well-rounded and hit all types of exercises.
“Maybe try to get some more weight and I feel like with making sure I’m getting the right food intake and getting a lot of it, I’ve been able to grow stronger in the weight room quicker. It’s been a good all-round thing, but I’m not trying to get too big because I don’t want to lose the flexibility and those things that help me in my game, so it’s trying to find that middle ground.”
In years past, Weaver experimented with adding different pitches during the off-season. But this year, he plans to continue with his three pitch mix of a fastball, changeup, and curveball. The cutter is still developing.
“That curveball came on well towards the end there, I think I figured out how to get a consistent release point and get a good break off of it,” said Weaver. “I felt like it was a go-to pitch I could throw when maybe the changeup wasn’t going well that day or maybe I was throwing it too much. As far as the slider or cutter, that’s still a pitch that can be used in a game but it’s like the curveball–it’s taking some time and getting some good reps. But coming into Spring Training with a confident three pitch mix and that fourth, that’s just really close to kind of rounding out the pitch arsenal I’m confident with.”
Confidence is a key word. Earlier in the year, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny expressed that Weaver was maybe giving too much respect to the opposing big league hitters and not being confident enough in his own stuff. That changed as the rookie was noticeably more aggressive in his pitching demeanor the last few weeks of the season.
“Obviously that’s kind of been a big topic with me,” agreed Weaver. “That just had to get thrown out the window because there’s just no way I could continue to pitch with the relaxed, calm, cool, and collected type of mindset I’ve always done because a lot of those hitters I don’t know too well or know of them so it’s just kind of a blank slate each time they come up. But when you face these guys that have been around the league for a while, you pay too much attention to that and that calm, cool, collected type of mindset just kind of gets beaten at different times.
“I just threw it out the window and tried to be an angry person out there. Kind of not take any crap, and just stare at what I need to stare in the mitt and the sign and let it rip. Just kind of feeding off that confidence and whatever it took to just kind of get me riled up each inning, maybe in the dugout talking to myself or whatever I need to do. That’s what I was riding with and something I’ll take into this next season.”
And now the Cardinals will look to ride Weaver in 2018. Lower back stiffness is no longer issue, but having thrown just 138 innings in 2017 and 119.1 in 2016, how big of a load can Weaver be expected to carry? Is a reasonable jump to 150 IP? 180 IP?
“The end of the year there, I could’ve kept going for a while,” assured Weaver. “150 to me–that’s not a far jump at all. Obviously with the injuries, it’s never been really the arm. I’m going to come into Spring Training maybe with some bubble wrap that way people can’t affect me. (laughs)
“I’ve got to get out of Spring Training with my body alive, it seems like something always happens. Besides that, I think it’s very. very doable. With the type of resources we have and the way I’m going about this off-season, I don’t think that’s a tough task at all. I think I just go out there and pitch.”
Weaver will be signing autographs during the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up on Sunday, January 14th between 3-5pm.
FAMILIAR TRAINING PARTNERS
Among those Weaver has been working out with this off-season is former FSU teammate John Nogowski, who joined the Cardinals organization this past season. Along with another former Seminole, Jayce Boyd, Weaver had high praise Nogowski’s ability at first base.
“Those two guys are some of the best first basemen I’ve seen as far as handling balls in the dirt, picking balls, and just the presence over at first base–knowing that when a ball comes to that area, it’s going to be caught,” explained Weaver.
Nogowski was hitting over .400 with the Sioux City Explorers in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball when he had his contract purchased by St. Louis in June of 2017. He was assigned to Springfield (AA) and hit .295 (61-207) in 59 games.
“He’s still got the glove skills–when we play catch, I see it. I know he’s been working a little bit on outfield, trying to be a little more versatile with different positions but he’s still got it for sure.”
photo credit: Jeff Curry, Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports