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Weaving a tale of brothers

By Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY

TEMPE, Ariz. — They grew up strangers in their own home. They were brothers but never close, separated by six years of hormones, maturity and interests.
Veteran Jeff Weaver, right, and his younger brother, Jered, are pitching together for the first time with the Los Angeles Angels.

By David Kadlubowski, USA TODAY

It was the game of baseball, right-handed pitchers Jeff Weaver and Jered Weaver say, that finally brought them together. But it was the business of baseball that endangered their brotherly love as they both prepared to open the season in the Los Angeles Angels organization. Only Jeff will begin with the major league club. Just two days before the start of spring training, Jeff Weaver, 29, had no job. But the Angels had a one-year, $8.35 million offer on the table with the chance for him to become a free agent again next winter. It was an opportunity to stay close to home in Manhattan Beach, Calif., to win and, for the first time in his life, to pitch with his brother. Or was it? "I didn't know whether it was a chance to pitch with him or ruin his dreams," Jeff says. "That was tough. I knew I couldn't make the decision myself. I wasn't going to do anything without talking to Jered." Jered, 23, had been invited for the first time to the Angels spring training camp and was told that if he had a dominant spring, he might begin his first full professional season as the team's No. 5 starter. That is, if a certain older brother didn't sign with the Angels, filling the lone vacancy in a rotation topped by Bartolo Colon, John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Ervin Santana. Jeff, a seven-year veteran who pitched for the Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, told agent Scott Boras not to even negotiate with the Angels until he talked with his brother, also represented by Boras. If Jered were uncomfortable, there were offers from the Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Indians and the New York Mets for Jeff to ponder.

"That's why people have no idea how hard of a decision I had," Jeff says. "Everybody thinks it's all fun and gravy for us to be on the same team. Believe me, there was a lot of thought that went into this." Realistically, Jeff knew Jered was a long shot despite throwing 94 mph with a good curveball and pinpoint control. He had been one of the finest college pitchers, receiving a $4 million signing bonus last summer as the Angels' first-round pick out of Long Beach State. But Jered had never pitched at Class AAA and had only 15 games of minor league experience. The Angels were prepared to open the season with Hector Carrasco, who spent most of last year as a reliever with the Washington Nationals, as the fifth starter. Still, did Jeff want to be the one to stall his brother's dreams? "Hey, my brother was out of work, he needed a job," says Jered, at 6-7, 205, 2 inches taller and 5 pounds heavier than his brother. "I told him, 'Don't worry about me. I'll get my spot.' As long as that spot stays in the family, I'm cool." So Jeff, who went 14-11 with a 4.22 earned run average with the Dodgers last season and whose 224 innings were more than any Angel pitched, looked after his short-term well-being, even if it came ahead of Jered's. "That was obviously the first thing that crossed everybody's mind," says Gail Weaver, who raised the boys with her husband in Simi Valley, Calif. "When it was first discussed, and things were going around, everyone said, 'What's Jered going to do? What's going to happen to Jered if (Jeff) takes it?' " Her husband, Dave, who would pace the stands at his sons' games, wanted to be absolutely sure Jeff understood the ramifications of his decision. "Everybody was cool about it but my dad," Jeff says. "He said, 'Do you understand they have one less spot in the rotation now? You know that, right?' " The way Jered figured it, Jeff can take only one spot in the rotation anyway. What happens if a starter goes down with an injury? "The amazing thing was that Jered was actually the one most excited about this," Jeff says. "I explained everything. I told him I didn't have to go to the Angels. But he's the one who wanted it. "I told him what it meant and all he said was, 'Don't worry about me. I'll be up there. I'll be winning a spot.' I said, 'Good. Now I can see what all of the hype is about.' " Familial bonds grow The Weavers would join half-brothers Livan and Orlando Hernandez as the only brothers pitching in the major leagues. The last brothers to become All-Star pitchers were Pedro and Ramon Martinez in the 1990s. It

has been 36 years since brothers were selected to pitch in the All-Star Game — Gaylord and Jim Perry.
Baseball brothers in arms
Jeff Weaver joined his younger brother Jered, the 12th overall draft pick in 2004, with the Los Angeles Angels organization this winter. The two could become the 17th set of brothers (since 1900) to be on the same major league staff if Jered makes the roster. He is projected to open the season at Class AAA Salt Lake. Brothers (older first) Team(s), seasons together Comment Hall of Famer Christy won 46 games; Henry saw action in three games Hall of Famer Dizzy and Paul led the Cards to the 1934 World Series title

Christy, Henry Mathewson

N.Y. Giants, 1906-07

Dizzy, Paul Dean

St. Louis, 1934-37

Phil, Joe Niekro

Phil was a 20Atlanta, 1973game winner in 74; N.Y. 1974; Joe was a Yankees, reliever in 19731985 74 Top aces in 1974, accounted for 38 of team's 77 wins Both drafted by Cubs; Paul spent four of his fiveyear career with starter Rick as a reliever

Jim, Gaylord Cleveland, Perry 1974-75

Paul, Rick Reuschel

Chicago Cubs, 197578

Both first signed with the Braves; Mickey, Rick Mickey was 5-11 Atlanta, 1979 Mahler while Rick, a rookie, was a reliever Ramon, Pedro Martinez Andy, Alan Benes L.A. Dodgers, 1992-93; Boston, 19992000 St. Louis, 1996-97 Pedro, a rookie in 1992, was an AllStar in 19992000 Combined for a 50-36 record in 115 starts

Jeff has a 78-87 career record; Jered has pitched 100 professional innings. But Angels pitching coach Bud Black says the similarities between them, from arm angle to release point to breaking ball, are eerie.

"No one pitches that alike unless they're brothers," Black says. "They pitch so much alike you'd have to split them up in the rotation just so hitters didn't get the same look." That's a concept foreign even to a future Hall of Famer. "That would be pretty cool to be on the same team as your brother," says Chicago Cubs starter Greg Maddux, whose brother, Mike, is the Milwaukee Brewers pitching coach. "It'd be great to have a teammate you can actually talk about your family with. "They always say your teammates are your family, but come on, there's a big difference between your brother and teammates you like and respect. Of course, it's only cool if you like your brother. It's not cool if you hate each other. And some brothers do hate each other." The Weavers, who started becoming close eight years ago, say they are the best of friends. They shared an apartment the first week of spring training — Jered with the master bedroom — and still live in the same spring training apartment complex. They commute to work together: Jered does most of the driving in his new, white Range Rover. Jeff still picks up most of the tabs. "I tried to pick up the tab my first night in town when we went out to eat," says Jered, who received a $4 million signing bonus last June and would draw the rookie minimum of $327,000 this season, "but my credit card was declined. "Oh well, he's got the big money. He can pay the bills. He got me a real nice watch for Christmas, too." What did Jered give him? "Uh, nothing yet," he says. "I know it's going to be late, but I'm planning on getting him a dog. I've got to wait a few months." Rivalry gives way to dreams Nothing like a little procrastination to bring back memories of their childhood when little brother would constantly annoy big brother. "We weren't close, not at all," Jered says. "It was just too big of an age difference. Six years is big when you're growing up. I remember when he got his driver's license. He wanted to go to the beach with his buddies, but he wanted no part of me. I was his punk brother. It was understandable, but I didn't quite understand it then. "I mean, we were never even on the same baseball field together," Jered says.

Says Jeff, "It was kind of the nagging little brother thing growing up. It just wasn't cool to hang out with him." Now they have the chance to realize the ultimate cool of cool. "I never dreamed I could ever play with my brother," Jered says. "I lived in his shadow. To be honest, I was just hoping to see him across the field. "The pressure is on me," Jered says. "I want to get up there (to the big leagues) while he's still there. But I'm not worried. I'll be there in time." Any sage brotherly advice to help get there quicker? "Yeah, he told me to keep my mouth shut and stay low," Jered says. "He said, 'Remember, you're nothing. You've done nothing yet.' " Brotherly love can hit home hard.