Publication date: 03-10-2006
Closer isn't so close
But Weathers still confident
By Marc Lancaster / Post staff reporter
BRADENTON, Fla. - David Weathers first reported to spring training in 1989, so by now he has a pretty good idea of how to prepare himself for the season.
If you were to assume, then, that Weathers isn't concerned about his 18.00 ERA through three Grapefruit League appearances this year, you would be correct.
"I'll let everybody else worry about that," said Weathers, even though no one really is.
The Reds' closer is behind schedule this spring, his preparation slowed by a freak injury suffered in January. Though no significant damage was done, Weathers lost about a month of workout time when he tore a tendon in his right index finger while playing catch at home.
As a result, some of what he's working on now during games against live opposition is get-the-ball-rolling work he might otherwise have done in bullpen sessions in previous years.
"Most guys, from Day One, would have milked it," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "He did not do that in any way, shape or form."
In fact, Weathers couldn't wait to get on the mound in games, regardless of the punishment his lack of sharpness might force him to take.
"I could go in there and say, 'Hey, don't pitch me, just let me throw on the side,' but I don't think that's going to get me ready for the season," said Weathers. "Nobody likes giving up runs or getting hit."
Weathers has experienced plenty of both so far. He has allowed at least one run in each of his outings, including six (three of them earned) in his spring debut a week ago. All told, Weathers has surrendered nine runs (six earned) while allowing seven hits, two walks and a hit batter in three innings of work.
The 36-year-old Tennessean has no desire to maintain that pace throughout the spring, but even if he did, it wouldn't matter much in the Reds' eyes. Not for someone with Weathers' experience.
"When it comes to spring training, you definitely go on track record," said Narron. "Guys are going to play to their ability once the season starts. That's the greatest thing about our game, is that over 162 games you're not going to fool a lot of people.
"We've got some pitchers that have faced some of the better lineups early in the game and they might have given up a run or two, and we've had guys come in at the end of games and they're facing No. 78 or No. 83 and putting up some zeroes. So you really can't go on numbers in the spring."
Weathers isn't, though he won't dismiss spring training performance out of hand, either. He noted that he had a bad spring last year (8.76 ERA in 11 appearances), and his struggles carried over into the regular season.
In his first 14 outings dating from the opener through May 6 last year, Weathers posted a 6.89 ERA and allowed 26 baserunners in 15 2/3 innings. He recovered to compile a 3.19 ERA in 59 games the rest of the way, saving 15 games after Danny Graves was designated for assignment.
Weathers believes that when he feels right on the mound, results will follow, just as they did - eventually - last year. It's just a matter of getting himself to that point.
"As far as most guys in here, I'm behind on time," he said. "I'm struggling right now just to feel good. The only way I'm going to get better is just going out there and getting more innings and more pitches under my belt and getting stronger. I don't know any other way to put it - not to make excuses, but the more I get out there, I think the more comfortable I'm going to feel and the more I'll get where I need to be."
That's his primary focus as he gets ready for a long season, and Weathers believes he can accomplish that goal without being perfectly sharp during spring training. Then again, getting pounded around does get a little old after a while.
"I shouldn't say I don't care about it, because I hate giving up runs," he said. "But I'm not saying, 'Oh my goodness, what's going to happen?' I do want to pitch better, absolutely."