If there was one thing Cardinals manager Mike Matheny could stress to 24-year-old righthander Luke Weaver as he prepped a return to the big leagues, it was how much credit he should give opposing hitters.
He had to give them less.
“I think every player has to get a couple of chances here to maybe put away some of their misconceptions or respect for this league and for the players in this league,” Matheny said. “Some guys can become numb because they give too much credit. I think that’s where Luke fell.”
In previous spot starts, Weaver had pitched away from hitters, veering toward the edges and plunging into trouble with walks and pitch counts. Back in the majors as the Cardinals look for someone to stabilize the rotation or enhance the bullpen, Weaver had a better feel for how to take his success at Triple-A Memphis—he went 10-2, 2.55 in 15 starts—and make it work in St. Louis.
Weaver had to, in his words and his manager’s, “trust in his stuff.”
A 2014 first-rounder from Florida State, Weaver emerged as the best pitching prospect in the Pacific Coast League, according to a poll conducted by Baseball America. He asserted his place in the majors with seven shutout innings and a career-best 10 strikeouts on Aug. 23 against the Padres. What he learned was he had the stuff to challenge big league hitters, and not try to nibble, avoid or outwit.
“That aggressive mentality (where) I felt like they just weren’t going to get a hit,” Weaver said. “With that intent, that conviction, I showed myself that I can get out of this.”
Weaver has a fastball that can hit 96 mph, and he has learned how to vary his velocity to invite meek contact versus going for strikeouts. He mixes in a changeup that, when established, makes his fastball freeze opponents.
The Cardinals have cleared the way for Weaver to get a long stay in the majors, and one official suggested “having Weaver go to Memphis in 2018 would not be logical.”