ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver is ready to return to the Angels' rotation on Thursday, and he has reason to believe the right biceps tendinitis that forced him to miss his last start is now behind him.
"It seems like it so far," Weaver said Monday, shortly after throwing off a mound for the first time since the diagnosis. "I don't feel any bite [in the biceps] at all and felt good in the bullpen. It's a step in the right direction."
With Weaver feeling better, the Angels' pitching plans for the rest of this critical four-game set against the A's have solidified. Jerome Williams, who has been relegated to the bullpen since late July, will make a spot start Tuesday, opposite Dan Straily. Ervin Santana, on normal rest after starting in Weaver's place on Friday, starts Wednesday against A.J. Griffin. And Weaver -- "Barring any unforeseen setback, which we don't anticipate," manager Mike Scioscia said -- will start Thursday against lefty Brett Anderson.
Weaver could have been slated to start Wednesday. But either way, the Angels' ace was lined up to next start the Sept. 18 series opener against the Rangers and, due to a scheduled off-day next Monday, would've been pitching on extended rest in one of his next two starts. In the end, the Angels decided on giving him the extra rest now and putting him on a regular schedule moving forward.
Weaver still lines up to pitch every five days the rest of the way, giving him five more starts and making him available to pitch the Oct. 3 regular-season finale in Seattle.
"Especially this time of year, you don't want to take any time off," Weaver said. "I'm looking forward to getting back out there."
Weaver probably won't return at 100 percent -- "I don't think any pitcher is pitching at 100 percent right now," he said -- but he feels he'll be a lot more himself. Since first experiencing the tendinitis in his Aug. 6 shutout against the A's, Weaver has a 6.14 ERA. The number skyrocketed because of his Aug. 17 start, when he gave up nine runs in three innings against the Rays, but the Angels' ace hasn't felt totally right in any of his past five outings.
"I just wasn't myself," said Weaver, 16-4 with a 2.86 ERA on the year. "I couldn't get on pitches, certain pitches, when I wanted to. I couldn't throw my slider as hard as I wanted to. I couldn't bump up on fastballs as much as I wanted to. It was biting and felt tight in there, and just couldn't get it out of there. As much as I would like to go out there 80, 85 percent, I just couldn't do it anymore. I wanted to take a break and see if I would feel better, and the little break has definitely helped out."
Williams to make spot start for Angels
ANAHEIM -- Jerome Williams was, as manager Mike Scioscia put it, "a natural fit" to make a spot start for the Angels on Tuesday. Williams has been semi-stretched out while serving as a long reliever since late July, Garrett Richards has a defined role in the back end of the bullpen and recent callup Barry Enright hasn't pitched in the Majors this season.
So in the second of a critical four-game set against the A's, Williams will oppose righty Dan Straily and get his first start since July 19. Despite exclusively pitching out of the bullpen for the last seven weeks, and not throwing more than 60 pitches in an outing since the start of August, Williams believes he "can easily go 100 pitches."
"It's just a matter of going out there and doing it," said Williams, who has gone 6-7 with a 4.60 ERA in 14 starts this season.
"He has a lot of length. He's been throwing multi-innings in the 'pen," Scioscia added. "We all feel Garrett has a very defined role in our 'pen now, and we don't want to disturb that, and Jerome's been pitching well when he has the ball. So, we all feel he's going to go out there and give us a chance to win."
Aybar in touch with McCarthys after injury
ANAHEIM -- The Angels want to beat the A's this week, but the health of opposing starter Brandon McCarthy is still very much on their minds. And nobody on their side has taken the recent events harder than Erick Aybar, whose line drive hit McCarthy directly above his right ear on Wednesday and led to emergency brain surgery.
"It's been hard," Aybar said in Spanish on Monday. "You never want that to happen. We may be on different teams, but I don't wish harm upon anybody. I always want things to turn out well."
Aybar recently left a message for McCarthy and got a return call from his wife, Amanda, who let the Angels shortstop know her husband is doing a lot better.
A's head trainer Nick Paparesta said McCarthy's doctors "are all very happy with how he's doing and the progress that he's made." The 29-year-old McCarthy, now stationed in a transitional care unit in a Bay Area hospital, walked down the hallway on Monday and went up and down four steps using a handrail. He could be close to heading back home.
Prior to Monday's series opener at Angel Stadium, the Angels flashed a "Get Well Soon, Brandon McCarthy" message on their JumboTron.
WAR backs up Trout's MVP candidacy
ANAHEIM -- Mike Trout opened Monday with a Wins Above Replacement mark of 10.0. For those of you not very savvy with sabermetrics -- or accepting of it -- that's pretty darn good. So good that the player with the second-best WAR in the Majors, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, is at 6.3. So good that since 2000, only three position players have finished a season with a WAR of 10 or higher.
WAR, as FanGraphs.com puts it, "is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player's total contributions to their team in one statistic." And many of those making the argument that Trout should be the American League's Most Valuable Player this year point to his lead in WAR as the clearest sign of all.
Angels starter C.J. Wilson, big on sabermetrics, believes Trout's MVP candidacy is "simple without that," but the WAR stat "takes it completely out of the picture all together."
"He plays Gold Glove defense in center field, which is huge, and he's leading the league in batting average [.328], and in runs , and he hits home runs , and he's leading the league in stolen bases ," said Wilson, who's been touting Trout as the MVP for weeks. "So it's like, all that stuff together, if you take him out of our lineup, it's a much worse lineup."
WAR would say the Angels would be 10 wins worse, actually.
Over the last 13 years, a WAR of 10 or higher has taken place eight times -- and only twice did it not lead to a major postseason award. Bonds did it in three of his MVP years (11.6 in '01 and '02, 11.4 in '04). Zack Greinke had a score of 10.1 during his Cy Young season in '09. Pedro Martinez was at 11.4 when he won the Cy Young in '00. Randy Johnson finished at 10.2 when he won his Cy Young in '02. Alex Rodriguez ('00) and Sammy Sosa ('01) each finished with scores of 10.1 in years they did not win the MVP.
Albert Pujols is widely mentioned as one of the greatest players of this generation, but his best WAR season was 9.4, in '09.
Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera has a legitimate shot at the Triple Crown and is considered Trout's biggest challenger for the MVP, but his WAR this year is 5.7.
Asked how much weight he puts on WAR, old-school Angels manager Mike Scioscia said "between zero and zero." But he isn't shocked to see Trout leading in anything these days.
"As people absorb it, you're going to see just what an incredible impact Mike's had in his first go-around playing in the Major Leagues," Scioscia said, "so that doesn't surprise me."
On Tuesday, between 3:30 and 6 p.m. PT, staff from the Angels Baseball Foundation will distribute back-to-school clothing and shoes to more than 400 children from the Boys & Girls Club of Anaheim. Each kid will receive socks, underwear, jeans, shirts, a pair of shoes, an Angels shirt, a rally monkey and a school-supplies pack. The distribution, which Walmart will also participate in, will take place at the Boys & Girls Club of Anaheim, located at 311 East Broadway.
Mike Trout has scored a run in each of the Angels' last nine home games.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.