04/06/2013 9:11 PM ET
Weaver's goal: Continue to evolve as pitcher
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Jered Weaver's goal every year never changes. He comes into Spring Training determined to improve on his previous season. That might seem overly ambitious for 2013, considering he's coming off his first 20-win season highlighted by a no-hitter, an All-Star Game appearance and American League bests in winning percentage (.800), WHIP (1.018) and hits per nine innings (7.0) while ranking third in ERA at 2.81.
"I don't know if he's talking about statistical improvement as much as evolving as a pitcher," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I'd be surprised if he said he wanted to win 25. I think he's talking about sharpening up as a pitcher. No doubt, as his stuff has changed, he's become a much more polished pitcher."
Weaver is matched Sunday night against Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish, coming off his near perfect game against the Astros in Houston. Darvish retired 26 hitters in a row before it was spoiled by Marwin Gonzalez's bullet through the middle that Darvish was unable to knock down.
"Yeah, too bad I won't get to hit," Weaver said, facetiously. "That probably wouldn't be a lot of fun."
Weaver, like the Giants' Matt Cain and Cy Young Award winners R.A. Dickey and David Price, will be hard-pressed to improve on his 2012 performance. What he can do, Weaver said, is make 33 starts, not 30, after issues with his back and shoulder prevented him from reaching his normal number of outings.
"Maybe try to match it," he said, grinning, when asked if improvement on his numbers is a stretch. "I always try to get better on the field, but you've got to make adjustments off the field as well. I want to make the best of my 33 starts, keep us in games, and that involves preparation, in the offseason and during the season.
"I had that start last year where my back locked up against the Yankees. It felt like a knife in my back. Then I had some shoulder issues late. Hopefully, I can stay free of any physical problems this year."
Weaver's ability to put away hitters without an overpowering, Justin Verlander-like heater is mystifying to some people, but not to his manager.
"You can still be effective without [exceptional] velocity," Scioscia said. "His four-pitch mix and deception with his delivery, along with tremendous command, allow him to do what he's doing. This was how he pitched all last year, and he won 20 games."
Hamilton's family moved from stands to private suite
ARLINGTON -- Josh Hamilton's wife, Katie, and their four children were moved out of the stands and into a private seating area for Saturday's game against the Rangers after being subjected to some verbal trash talk during the highly publicized return of the Angels' outfielder to his former home park on Friday.
Angels management requested security for Hamilton's family as a preventative measure with the crowd intensely booing the former Rangers star and serenading him with offensive chants. Hamilton was hitless in four at-bats during the Angels' 3-2 loss.
"It was a great lesson for my kids to see how people can be," Hamilton said. "Put your trust and faith in God and not man, and they can never be disappointed."
Hamilton admittedly was disappointed by the unrelenting nature of the crowd's hostile response every time he stepped to the plate or came near a ball in right field.
"It didn't overwhelm me to where I said, `Oh, my, get me out of the lineup,'" Hamilton said. "It's what I expected. I came to play ball. Same thing [today]. Boos and chants, it's all the same. At times as a player you don't hear what's going on. They had a little chant going on one time, around the seventh [inning] -- once the alcohol got flowing real good."
It wasn't all negative, Hamilton said, grinning.
"When I was on deck," he said, "three little kids said, `Josh, we miss you.'"
Rehabbing Madson eager to pitch for hometown fans
ARLINGTON -- Angels reliever Ryan Madson, on the mend from Tommy John surgery almost exactly one year ago, made it through a 20-pitch bullpen session before Saturday's game and compared it to a "slow jog" in the context of his program.
"I'm not pain-free and not 100 percent, but I'm taking steps," said Madson, who missed the 2012 season with the Reds and signed with his hometown Angels as a free agent. "I'm not game speed yet, but I'm inching closer. I'm throwing every third day now."
Madson, 32, grew up in Moreno Valley, about a 45-minute drive from Angel Stadium in Riverside County, and now calls Temecula home. Proximity to his roots and background as an athlete has him excited about the opportunity to get outs for manager Mike Scioscia. But Madson knows it's a process, and rushing it would be unwise -- especially given the depth and talent in the Angels' bullpen.
"Last year was rough, not getting to pitch for Dusty [Baker and the Reds]," Madson said. "I'm really looking forward to getting out there and helping this team win. It's a great group of guys."
• Albert Pujols made his first appearance of the season as the designated hitter on Saturday against Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison. Pujols was off to a slow start with one hit in 14 at-bats (.071) before connecting on a two-run homer in the first inning and a solo shot in the sixth.
"Albert's handled things like this his whole career," Scioscia said, referencing Pujols' slow start in his 2012 Angels debut. "It bothered him last year. It was more an issue of his knees."
Scioscia said he will keep the DH option available to any of his regulars who "can use a day off their feet," with Mark Trumbo, who also hit a two-run homer in the first inning Saturday, expected to get a lion's share of the DH assignments.
• Scioscia had this to say in the aftermath of Hamilton's rough treatment by Texas fans on Friday: "Josh played well here, and we're happy to have him. The fans in Texas showed which side of the fence they were on."
Hamilton, like Pujols, had only one hit through four games, carrying an average of .063 into Saturday's game. Hen went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts in Saturday's 8-4 victory to lower his average to .050.
• Only four Rangers had ever faced Tommy Hanson coming into his Angels debut on Saturday. A.J. Pierzynski went 3-for-3 against the veteran right-hander, and Lance Berkman was 2-for-6. Geovany Soto was 1-for-2 and Jeff Baker is hitless in his only at-bat. Howard Kendrick (5-for-15) has been the most successful Angels hitter against Harrison. Pujols entered 3-for-11 vs. Harrison.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.