COMMENTARY | When Los Angeles Angels' ace Jered Weaver went on the disabled list following a lower back injury on May 28, the Angels were beginning to come out of a terrible slump that saw the team as many as nine games out of first place during the month of April.
Now, the team has solidified itself as a true contender in the AL West, and with Weaver set to return from the disabled list on Wednesday, June 20, against the San Francisco Giants, the Angels will have one of their most valuable assets back heading into the crucial summer months of the 2012 MLB season.
The timing couldn't be any better.
The Texas Rangers, the team the Angels will likely be competing with for the division title, are a dangerous group with no glaring weaknesses. With the second best record in the American League behind only the New York Yankees as of June 18, they will be determined to separate themselves from the Halos.
Weaver gives his team edginess -- kids today may call it swagger -- and he boosts the morale of the entire pitching staff when he takes the mound every fifth day. Having a true stopper like him in the rotation makes everyone's job easier. In his absence, the team has rallied and fought back from the depths of the AL West.
With him, they will have a legitimate opportunity to threaten the Rangers for first place.
Before the Angels get ahead of themselves, they need to take their time with Weaver and ensure that he doesn't suffer further injury. It appears they plan to do so by limiting him to a pitch count of 80-90 pitches on Wednesday.
Good pitching can be a catalyst for an offense to come alive. With Albert Pujols working himself out of the worst slump of his professional career, it's conceivable that Weaver's presence could help accelerate his resurgence.
Regardless of how he performs in his first few starts back, the stellar play of Weaver's teammates will allow him to ease back into his role and take his time in generating momentum as the season wears on.
Ultimately, the Angels will have to rely heavily on him when the division race heats up later in the year.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the Los Angeles Angels and Major League Baseball. He has written for Southern California's Press-Enterprise and Examiner.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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