Weaver has Game 2 date with first team
Cardinals starter to face Tigers, who drafted him in 1998
DETROIT -- Jeff Weaver has returned to Detroit and Comerica Park. Former teammate Todd Jones wasn't exactly there to welcome him with open arms.Jones had a few comments about the former Tiger that irritated Cardinals manager Tony La Russa before St. Louis' 7-2 win over the Tigers in Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday night. "I am the wrong guy to ask about Jeff Weaver," Jones said in the Detroit News. "I am not a big advocate of his and I wasn't a big advocate of his when he was here. "He was a good pitcher who never really panned out here. Maybe he found a home in St. Louis, but there's no love lost here that he's gone." Weaver will be back on Sunday as the St. Louis starter for Game 2. He is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in three playoff starts, and La Russa wasn't thrilled that one of Weaver's ex-teammates was taking shots at him. "What Jeff Weaver has done for us ... those comments upset me," La Russa said. "I don't know what the history is. I know Todd Jones. I've had several conversations with him, and I respect what he has done in Detroit. He's a really good pitcher. "But I was disappointed. Those should be addressed privately between teammates or ex-teammates. To air them publicly, I was disappointed. The teammate that Jeff has been for us, we want to rally against those comments." Weaver didn't seem to be bothered by what his former teammate said. "Todd Jones is one of the nicest guys I've ever run across," Weaver said. "If he's got some unkind words, I don't know where it stems from. This is the World Series, maybe he's trying to get a jab in. It doesn't affect me. I've got nothing but good things to say about him." Weaver and Jones were teammates with the Tigers in 1999-2001. At the time, Weaver was at the center of the Tigers' rebuilding efforts and one of their biggest hopes for the future. Weaver was the Tigers' first pick (14th overall) out of Fresno State in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft and was in their rotation before the 1999 season was two weeks old.
But it never quite worked out the way Weaver and the Tigers hoped. Weaver was 39-51 with a 4.33 ERA in 111 games, including 109 starts, for a franchise that was struggling year after year.New general manager Dave Dombrowski finally brought it to an end on July 5, 2002, when the Tigers worked out a three-team trade with the New York Yankees and the Oakland Athletics. As part of the deal, Weaver went to the Yankees and the Tigers received pitchers Jeremy Bonderman and Franklyn German, and first baseman Carlos Pena. "It was very emotional for me," Weaver said. "It was something that was not expected. I had just signed an extension to be around for a while and be a part of a team moving in the right direction. I would have liked to have stuck around through the tough times and, who knows, be a part of this. "It was really emotional. Your first change is the one that affects you the most. But now it is what it is. There is nothing I would have changed." His path to Game 2 of the 2006 World Series took him to the Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He even got to pitch in a World Series for the Yankees: Game 5 of the 2003 affair against the Florida Marlins. The game went into extra innings. Weaver, banished to the bullpen, hadn't pitched in a month but retired the side in the 11th. In the 12th, Alex Gonzalez hit a 3-2 pitch over the fence for a walk-off home run and a 5-4 victory for the Marlins. "Regardless of the results, it was one of my special moments." Weaver said. "It helped me once we got to this postseason. "You understand the game better when you go through the good times and the bad times. It helped me worked through my struggles this year. If you've done it before, you know you can do it. It helps you keep your head up." There were bad times this season. Weaver, a free agent, signed a one-year deal with the Angels and was 3-10 with a 6.29 ERA in 16 starts. He basically lost his spot in the rotation to his younger brother, Jered, and on July 5, exactly four years after his departure from Detroit, he was traded to the Cardinals for Minor League outfielder Terry Evans. The Cardinals needed starting pitching and Weaver gave them a boost. He was 5-4 with a 5.18 ERA, and the Cardinals were 8-7 in his 15 starts. Pitching coach Dave Duncan played a big part in getting him straightened out. "It starts from Day 1," Weaver said. "He pulls you aside, sits and talks to you, not only telling you his thoughts but he wanted to know my thoughts as well. He wasn't looking to change anything. He just wanted to reiterate what my strengths are and just to go out and execute. Don't change anything. "Some guys, when you go through struggles, they want to change everything. That wasn't the case. They told me they loved the way I compete and they loved my stuff, it was a matter of finding it. Also, to know I was going to get the ball every five days and didn't have to look over my shoulder made it easier to get into a groove." He has been in a groove in the playoffs, and now the Cardinals are in the World Series, giving him an opportunity to pitch against his old team. "I love it," La Russa said. "He has been outstanding on the road. He's a veteran who will take whatever adrenaline there is and make it work on his behalf."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.