Jered Weaver, all grown up

One thing you never have to worry about with Jered Weaver is his desire to dominate an opponent. Watch him closely when he pitches and -- even if you can't hear what he's saying -- his body language is as easy to read as a Dr. Seuss book.

He gives up a single and he looks like he wants to fight someone.

"I've never competed against a more competitive pitcher, and a pitcher who will do anything it takes to make sure that he keeps his team in a ballgame," was how Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington put it when he named Weaver his starter for Tuesday night's All-Star game.

The challenge for Weaver hasn't been motivation, it's been maturity. Weaver is one of those guys who never really got tested until he reached the major leagues. He was a two-sport star at Simi Valley High and he could dominate at Long Beach State easily enough without much more than his 95-mph fastball.

But since Weaver made his big league debut in 2006, it's been one hurdle after another, some pretty high. To understand how he reached this pinnacle, you have to grasp how he got over each of those plateaus.

Lesson 1 was in the business of baseball. The Los Angeles Angels sent him back to the minor leagues even after he had gone 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA. Results, of course, aren't the only things that matter in the big leagues. The Angels had an expensive, veteran staff that year and Weaver was the odd man out -- mostly because of seniority -- when they needed a roster spot for Bartolo Colon to come off the disabled list.

Even what should have been a joyous moment for Weaver became bitter-sweet. When the Angels brought him back up, they made room for him on the roster by designating his brother, Jeff, for assignment. It worked out fine for everybody -- Jeff Weaver pitched brilliantly for the St. Louis Cardinals, who won the World Series that year -- and Jered finished 11-2. But that transaction must have made for some awkward feelings in the Weaver family living room.

Later came some struggles, but who doesn't have those? Weaver had a 4.33 ERA in 2008.

All that stuff was adversity. The next blow was tragedy.

Weaver had become close friends with Nick Adenhart during spring training in 2009. There were elements of a big brother-little brother relationship working there. Weaver, seven years younger than Jeff, had never gotten to experience being a mentor. He had always been the one taking advice. Adenhart had agreed to move into his apartment in Long Beach. But in the early hours of April 9, Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver, hours after his best major league start.

Since then, Weaver has carved Adenhart's initials in the dirt behind the mound before every inning.

Weaver looks a lot like he did in his rookie season. He's still got the long, stringy hair, the lanky build, the funky delivery. If anything, his shoulders have gotten broader, his arms thicker.

But his personality isn't quite the same. He's a little less brash, a little more humble. The making of an ace can be a tortuous path.