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Four years after his MLB debut, reliever Zack Weiss makes his second big league appearance

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ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 02: Zack Weiss #57 of the Los Angeles Angels pitches in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 02, 2022 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Zack Weiss threw 1 1/3 innings of hitless relief for the Angels on Friday night. It was his second game in the majors, and first since his debut in 2018. (Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Zack Weiss waited for this moment for four years.

He sat in the Angels bullpen, watching his team drop four runs to a division rival, the Houston Astros.

The bullpen phone rang. It was for him.

“I’ve been waiting a minute to hear my name called, so I felt pretty prepared,” Weiss said after the Angels’ 4-2 loss to the Astros on Friday. “Been kind of just itching for this for kind of a long time, so I was excited. I felt ready to compete and fortunate to get an opportunity.”

Weiss made his major league debut on April 12, 2018, against the St. Louis Cardinals, as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, in his age-26 season.

The outing was a disaster for him. He gave up four earned runs on two hits — both home runs — and two walked batters. Weiss came on in the seventh inning of a game in which the Reds were down just 5-4. He never recorded an out and was sent back to the minors two days later.

Zack Weiss makes his major league debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2018.

Zack Weiss makes his major league debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2018. (Gary Landers/Associated Press)

He had not pitched in a major league game since that first outing … until Friday.

Weiss, who is now 30, came on to pitch 1 1/3 innings, starting in the sixth. He got Astros catcher Martín Maldonado to ground out on a 2-and-2 four-seam fastball. He got José Altuve to ground out on his 0-and-1 slider. He sent the Astros packing for the inning after getting Jeremy Peña to fly out.

And he made one last out to start the seventh, inducing a pop out on Alex Bregman’s at-bat.

“It would have been nice if we won the ballgame, but I was happy to get the opportunity to get in there,” he said. “It was cool the way it went. Looked up and saw some family, saw my dad fist-pumping, so that was special.”

Weiss is from Irvine, attended Northwood High and played at UCLA. Being so close to home, he knew there would be a few familiar faces in attendance for him not just Friday, but through the rest of the weekend.

Weiss had been a sixth-round draft pick in 2013 by the Reds. They released him on Sept. 1, 2018, and he signed a minor league contract with the Minnesota Twins in November of that year. He floated around the Twins organization through September 2019, eventually signing another minor league contract in the offseason with Cleveland in February 2020.

But that season was as much lost for him as it was for hundreds of other minor leaguers when the COVID-19 pandemic washed out the minor league season. In May of the following year, he signed a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners, becoming a free agent again this past offseason.

“I kind of had to retool myself,” Weiss said of what happened in the four years since his last major league appearance. “I kept hurting my oblique and needed to make an adjustment mechanically. I’ve been feeling good and it’s been going well for a while now.”

“It’s been a grind. I got released like three years in a row and it was awful,” Weiss continued. “So just kind of believed that I could compete at this level and really just kind of committed everything to try to get back.”

Weiss also had three stints pitching in independent baseball leagues and played for Israel in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The Angels picked him up in November 2021 on a minor league deal, extending him his first nonroster spring-training invite with a big league team since 2018. And then he got his first big league call-up in four years, as one of two of the Angels’ expanded roster additions — the other was outfielder Ryan Aguilar, another player trying to revive his career as an Angel.

“If it never came, it wasn’t going to be a failure of a year,” said Weiss, who had been with the Angels’ triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake when that call-up happened.

“When [Salt Lake manager Lou Marson] called me and let me know, I was over the moon. Immediately called everybody I knew.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.