Even before his scheduled 95 pitches on the backfields today, St. Louis Cardinals starter Luke Weaver felt ready to go if the season were to start tomorrow.
“I feel like I’m good to go,” he confirmed earlier this week. “There’s always room for improvement but the way I’m feeling and the way the pitches are coming out, it’s just as far as feel and the game plan and what I’m doing through the games, I feel good about it.”
In his four Grapefruit League starts, Weaver went 13.1 innings and allowed 5 hits and 2 runs/1 earned. He also struck out 15 batters and held opponents to a .116 average. The 24-year old put together a similar run towards the end of August last season which saw him rattle off six consecutive victories. This season, he will have the chance to deliver the entire year.
“Everything feels great,” Weaver continued. “Throwing all the off-speeds a lot and into good counts with those and behind in counts throwing those. Body’s feeling good, so it’s just about recovering and getting back out there.”
The Cardinals top draft pick (27th overall) in 2014, Weaver has enjoyed success and the mentorships he’s received while moving through the organization. A large mentor on and off the field is Adam Wainwright, who Luke has traveled to Haiti with for mission work with the veteran’s Big League Impact Foundation.
And while there are still lessons being learned from Wainwright, Weaver has also been taking advantage of the addition of new pitching coach Mike Maddux.
“It’s been really good,” he stated. “As far as the pitching aspect, I think mentally approaches and the way to get after batters and just different information on the pitching side has been huge. When we have our pitcher’s meetings and going over games, he does a good job of kind of pulling out positives and negatives from different starts and outings from all the guys, so you’re just continuing to always learn from what people did right and wrong. You take that into your game plan and try to improve upon it.”
Referred to as “chalk talk” by Maddux, those pitching meetings often include a dry erase board to further illustrate the message.
“It was a little different when he first brought it up,” said Weaver. “But now that we’ve been through it for a while it’s just becoming another 15 minutes added to the schedule that you can really benefit from. You watch games at home, maybe not as much on the road if you’re not going–but there’s always something you might miss. He does a good job of being really detailed and just makes you strive while you watch the game to try and see those little things.”
In limited chances (.250, 8-32) Weaver has shown some ability to swing the bat, so it’s no surprise that’s he welcomes the change suggested by Maddux to have pitchers take live batting practice.
“I’m getting a lot out of it,” said Weaver, who is also looking to give Adam Wainwright a run for his money at the plate. “Coming into this off-season knowing we have a Silver Slugger on this team, there was a mission I’ve taken. I wanted to come in ready and to try and give him a run for his money.
“But this spring training, I’ve really tried to hone in just getting the base mechanics and seeing pitches, and just trying to be a–I don’t know about a weapon, but something that is going to benefit the team whether it’s getting bunts down or hit and runs or just trying to get on base.”
In his only game with at-bats, Weaver delivered with a line drive single against Atlanta.
“It was pretty cool,” he said. “Stuff like that happens, your confidence builds and those live BPs are a great way to get accustomed to a pitcher who looks like he’s really 30 feet away instead of 60.”
“I just remember him winding up and then the ball just flying in the air, anything in between that I can’t tell ya,” smiled Weaver. “As a pitcher, as long as you can try to get the barrel on it, that’s your job. If it shoots a hole or something, that’s a bonus.”
photo credit: Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com