The Los Angeles Angels put ace Jered Weaver on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a lower-back injury, likely forcing last season's AL Cy Young runner-up to miss at least two starts.
The Angels recalled touted prospect Garrett Richards from Triple-A Salt Lake to take the rotation spot of Weaver, their most durable and dynamic starter of the past half-decade.
Weaver threw just 12 pitches and faced four batters Monday night against the Yankees before pulling up awkwardly after a pitch to Robinson Cano. He was diagnosed with lower-back spasms and a strained muscle around a disc in his lower spine.
"It's always disappointing knowing that you're not going to be out there pitching the next two or three times," Weaver said. "But I'm a competitor, and I'm going to do whatever work I have to do to get back on that mound. ... It was just a fluke thing. I just landed wrong, or I came off (the mound) wrong."
Weaver is 6-1 with a 2.61 ERA this season, tied for second in the AL in victories. The lanky 6-foot-7 right-hander threw a no-hitter against Minnesota on May 2, and had given up just three runs and six hits over 15 innings in his two previous starts before facing New York.
"If we were pushing for a playoff spot, I don't think we would have gone the disabled list route," said Weaver, who will be eligible to return June 12. "But we're early enough in the season that we can rest it and let it get back to 100 percent."
The Angels are taking no chances with Weaver, who has made at least 28 starts in each of the past five seasons. He led the majors in strikeouts in 2010 before making his second straight All-Star team and going 18-8 last season.
"It's disappointing when a guy of that caliber has to be on the DL," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully it won't be too long before he's out there pitching, but we don't know what the timetable is going to be. ... I think everyone believes it's going to be manageable, and hopefully it won't be too long, but we have to give him enough time."
Scioscia said Weaver likely will be able to throw again "in very short order" if he responds well to rest in the next few days. Weaver had hoped he would only miss his next scheduled start Sunday against Texas, but Scioscia is more cautious.
"It's significant enough where it's going to take a couple of weeks," Scioscia said. "When he's back in the rotation is when he's healthy, and when that time frame comes isn't certain."
Weaver is particularly frustrated because the injury prevents him from making starts against the Yankees and the defending AL champion Rangers this week. After a rough start to the season, Los Angeles won its seventh straight Monday night on Mark Trumbo's game-ending homer, evening its record at 25-25.
"It couldn't have come at a worse time (in the schedule)," Weaver said. "But it's early enough in the season where we can take care of it."
Scioscia hasn't decided whether Richards will take Weaver's turn against the Rangers on Sunday, or whether the Angels will take advantage of a day off Thursday to keep the other four starters on normal rest. Dan Haren was scheduled to pitch Tuesday night against the Yankees.
Richards caught the first plane from Salt Lake on Tuesday morning after getting the call Monday night. The right-hander from nearby Riverside, Calif., appeared in seven games for the Angels last season, making three starts and finishing his first major-league experience 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA.
Richards nearly won the fifth rotation spot in spring training, losing the competition to rejuvenated veteran Jerome Williams. Richards is 5-2 with a 4.31 ERA for the Triple-A Bees, excelling despite a recent bout of control problems.
"The game up here moves a lot faster than it does in the minor leagues," Richards said. "You've got to pitch your game. I learned a lot last year, and I just feel like this season I'm a lot more prepared."
The Angels also reinstated outfielder Torii Hunter from the restricted list Tuesday, putting him back in the lineup against the Yankees. Hunter, batting .256 with five homers and 15 RBIs this season, missed Los Angeles' past 15 games while returning home to Texas to deal with his teenage son's arrest in a sexual assault investigation.
Los Angeles optioned infielder Andrew Romine back to Salt Lake to open a spot for Hunter.