Will Jered Weaver’s no-hitter help Angels turn things around?

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Jered Weaver couldn’t hold back the tears in the aftermath of his first career no-hitter on Wednesday night against the Minnesota Twins.

After an emotional celebration with his Angels teammates, he hugged his parents and his wife before taking the microphone to address the crowd.

“My mom, my dad, my wife, I mean this is awesome to have these guys (here),” he said. “This is why I stayed here for you guys. This is awesome.”

It was the biggest of moments for the native of Northridge Simi Valley, Calif., who stunned many last August when he gave up the right to become a free agent and instead signed a five-year, $85 million deal to stay with his hometown Angels. (It’s a deal that includes a full no-trade clause, by the way.)

Yes, the Twins are a bad team that was playing without Justin Morneau, but Weaver was hardly touched, allowing only two runners on the evening. The first came in the second inning, as Chris Parmelee reached base on a strikeout when Angels catcher Chris Iannetta was unable to hold onto the ball. Weaver later let Iannetta off the hook for ruining a potential perfect game, walking Josh Willingham with two outs in the seventh.

Weaver pitched masterfully, even if his stuff wasn’t electric. His fastball averaged only 89 mph (topping out at 92.8), but his pitches had plenty of movement and he lived on the edges of the strike zone.

“Weaver had everything working,” Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos told MLB Network radio. “His fastball he was locating on both sides of the plate. … It was fun to watch. He worked quick and pounded the zone and really kept them off balance. It was a pretty easy night for me. I think the fly balls I got were routine popups. I barely had to move.”

Two of the final three outs were fairly well hit – Jamey Carroll flew out to Vernon Wells in left field leading off the ninth, and Alexi Casilla hit a drive to right that Torii Hunter ran down on the warning track to end it. Otherwise the Twins managed to compile little more than a collection of lazy fly balls and pop-ups, whiffing nine times.

Moving forward, you have to wonder if this is the sort of thing that will help the Angels relax and begin playing the sort of ball most expected of them when they signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in the offseason. Playing the Twins certainly helps, as a scuffling offense woke up to score 17 runs in a three-game sweep. They’re 10-15 now and seven games behind the powerful Rangers, but there is a lot of baseball to be played, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this could still be a 90-win team, or even better.

“I think the offense is starting to wake up,” Bourjos said. “The pitching’s been there most of the year and it’s just really on the offense. That middle of the order, you saw what it did tonight, and I think it’s going to continue the rest of the year.”

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Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

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Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.