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|Dan Haren couldn't be more different than Jered Weaver, but their chemistry has vaulted them to the top of the MLB pitching ranks.|
"Even when we're pitching, we'll talk to each other and see what we did with that guy or what we could have done different with that guy," Weaver said. They have divergent methods -- Weaver has a slider and Haren has a cutter, Weaver has a changeup and Haren has a split-finger fastball -- but similar mentalities. They're not so dissimilar that it doesn't benefit each of them to watch the other's starts. They approach pitching with a similar fearlessness, often throwing off-speed pitches in fastball counts. If they walk more than two batters in a game, it's an inefficient day by their standards. What sets them apart from run-of-the-mill right-handers, in the estimation of Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher, is an ability to locate every pitch they throw. Each has a way of deceiving a hitter's eye and disrupting a hitter's timing. Haren accomplishes it with what Butcher calls a "hitch-in-his-giddyup," that mid-delivery pause. Weaver does it by being 6-foot-7, throwing across his body and keeping the ball hidden. Both can dominate a game without once touching 92 mph on the radar gun, but both have the ability to throw harder if they wish. Each keeps a little extra in reserve -- or, as Haren puts it, "I kind of keep it at the speed limit." It might be enough to say they're simply in the prime of their careers. Haren is 30, Weaver 28. Neither pitcher feels as if there's a game of one-upmanship going on, even if it has often looked that way. Two days after Weaver struck out 15 Toronto Blue Jays, Haren threw a one-hitter against Cleveland. "The whole friendly competition thing, I think people make that up," Haren said. "To be honest with you, his competitiveness on the mound inspires me. He's like a different person out there." Weaver said having Haren here reminds him of when John Lackey was still in town, and not in the visitors dugout. "He wants to be out there every fifth day, he wants to compete," Weaver said. Here is what Weaver sees of himself when he watches Haren work: "He knows when to change speeds, he knows when to throw a cutter in a fastball count, he knows when to bury a pitch when he needs to. I think that's where I've come a long ways, just learning how to pitch and not just going out there and throwing everything as hard as I can." Weaver, you might recall, began his major league career by going 9-0 in 2006. This current streak feels different. It takes him awhile, but he finds the right word: satisfying. That early success may have had more to do with the hitters' lack of familiarity than with a brilliant grasp of pitching. He was only 23 then. "I've hit the bumps in the road and had some successful seasons and some not-so-successful ones. Just coming a long way to where I am, that's pretty satisfying," Weaver said. This early dominance by the Angels' top two starters -- and it is, of course, early dominance -- has had some ripple effects on the staff. Consistently long outings have given the bullpen needed rest at times. They're showing the Angels' younger pitchers -- and there are a lot of them right now -- how you attack a major league lineup, then do it again five days later. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he's already seen 21-year-old rookie Tyler Chatwood's "ears perk up" when Weaver and Haren are talking in the dugout. Chatwood looks like he has similar moxie, if not similar maturity. He managed to pitch around the first 10 Red Sox base runners before the 11th -- Jacoby Ellsbury -- managed to drive in two runs with a broken-bat single in the sixth inning Thursday night. Chatwood is in a pretty good place to learn while two of the most polished pitchers in the league work their craft. "He's paying attention," Scioscia said. Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.