Right-hander Luke Weaver’s success over the first couple months of 2019 was among the most encouraging early season developments for the Diamondbacks. UCL and flexor pronator sprains cut Weaver down near the end of May, however, and he hasn’t taken a major league mound since. Finally, though, Weaver’s making “major” progress, as Richard Morin of the Arizona Republic reports. Weaver threw off flat ground Tuesday and is slated for a bullpen session Friday.
Manager Torey Lovullo called the latest development on Weaver “very good news.” The hope is that Weaver and fellow injured righty Taijuan Walker will be able to make it back to the Diamondbacks’ staff this season. Walker is approximately “10 days” behind Weaver’s program, per Lovullo. It’s been an injury-ruined couple years for the once-touted Walker, who missed almost all of last season on account of Tommy John surgery and then suffered a sprained shoulder capsule this past May. He hasn’t made a big league appearance since April 14, 2018.
If Weaver and Walker do factor back into the mix for Arizona this year, they’ll likely do so as relievers, Morin relays. There probably isn’t enough time for either to work their way back as starters in 2019. It’s fair to say their absences are among the reasons the Diamondbacks (57-57) are 2 1/2 games out of a National League wild-card spot instead of in playoff position right now. After all, the club has struggled for most of the season to fill out its staff with capable starters. Plus, at least on paper, losing Zack Greinke while gaining Mike Leake and Zac Gallen at the July-ending trade deadline should make matters that much more difficult.
Regardless of whether Weaver pitches again this season, Arizona likely believes it has a long-term building block on its hands in the soon-to-be 26-year-old. Acquired with now-breakout catcher Carson Kelly from the Cardinals in last winter’s Paul Goldschmidt blockbuster, Weaver has recorded a terrific 3.02 ERA/3.11 FIP with 9.82 K/9 and 2.02 BB/9 in 62 1/3 innings this season. Weaver’s not on track to become eligible for arbitration until after next season or a free agent until the conclusion of the 2023 campaign. If healthy, he could help ease the pain of Greinke’s exit in the years ahead.