PRINCETON — A primary factor in picking up Appalachian League wins early in the season resides in the bullpen. Jon Weaver fills such a role for the Princeton Rays, entering the game when starters get in trouble.
When he takes the mound, he does not believe in messing around. The 6-foot-3 right-hander toes the rubber knowing what his job is and how he’s likely to get it accomplished.
“I try and work quickly, and I pound the strike zone,” Weaver said. “My fastball has a good amount of run and sink on it. So that’s my more-or-less go-to pitch.”
As of Saturday afternoon, he had appeared in three games for Princeton, allowing four hits and one earned run in 4 2/3 innings for an ERA of 1.93. He’s struck out four batters and issued one base on balls. He has yet to be credited with a win or a loss.
A resident of Franklin Park, Ill., near Chicago, Weaver was a closer this spring for the Chippewas of Central Michigan University. The senior appeared in a team-high 26 games and secured seven saves, ending his senior year with a 3-1 record and a 1.98 ERA.
He was selected in the 21st round of the June major league draft, the 662nd pick overall. Three other Chippewa pitchers also got drafted.
He had earlier been drafted right out of high school, but “the negotiations didn’t end up working out,” he said. Instead, he earned all-region honors as a pitcher for Heartland Community College in Normal, Ill., prior to moving on to the CMU campus in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Weaver, who turned 22 in May, said, “After my senior year, I didn’t know if I was going to [get drafted], but hearing my name called that day, it was a dream come true.”
In typical fashion, he wasted no time reporting to the Tampa Bay spring training facility in Florida.
His first few weeks with the Rays included plenty of instruction “about holding on runners and the importance of that,” Weaver said, “as well as just adapting to professional baseball as a whole.”
The day before the start of the season, he said at a media interview opportunity, “Right now, we’re living in a hotel, and that’s something I’ve never done, so that’s an adaptation I’ve been trying to make. But I like it so far. ... The scenery is amazing.”
Princeton has taken some getting used to for a big-city collegian. Weaver said, “Compared to Chicago, where I’m from, it’s a lot slower pace — but I’m a slower-pace kind of guy so I enjoy this.”
Asked about joining the Tampa Bay system, he said, “It’s an honor to be a part of this organization. ... The opportunity to be here is phenomenal. It’s something I’m going to take full advantage of.”
“I didn’t know too much about the organization before I was drafted, but I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here. I’ve learned a lot by talking to other people and by looking up information on my own.”
He took an immediate liking to Princeton manager Michael Johns, he said.
“He’s a really good guy,” Weaver said. “He cares about us a lot, and that’s the most important part of a manager, is [to be] somebody who cares about his players.”
“He’s talked about worrying first and foremost about our health. At this stage in our professional career, that’s what’s most important. A manager who takes care of that, is someone who I want to be playing for.”
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