By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
8:00 AM EDT, May 7, 2014
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Orioles fans are holding their breath as we wait on the news of catcher Matt Wieters’ visit to orthopedist Dr. James Andrews today in Pensacola, Fla.
Wieters is scheduled to fly to Andrews’ clinic on the Florida panhandle through Charlotte, have his sore elbow examined and fly back to Tampa Bay on a direct flight back.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter tried to be optimistic Tuesday night after the team’s 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, saying that he hoped Wieters would be his starting catcher today.
Wieters wasn't available to the media after Tuesday's game. He will speak when he returns from his visit to Andrews on Wednesday.
But in retrospect, there are plenty of signals why the Orioles are concerned.
Wieters has already missed seven games out of 30 this season. He only missed twice that many (14) through the entire 162-game season in 2013.
He has had a fantastic year at the plate, hitting a team-high .341 with five homers and 18 RBIs. His .560 slugging percentage is second on the team behind Nelson Cruz’s .588 mark.
But the most interesting statistic is an unusually low percentage of base runners caught stealing. It’s obviously a small sample size, but Wieters has thrown out just one of 12 base runners (8 percent). In his career, Wieters throws out 33 percent and hasn’t thrown out less than 35 percent in any of the past three seasons.
Showalter said that since the team was on the road in Florida and Wieters just had an MRI on his elbow during the day off Monday, the team wanted to make sure they got their arms around it, which would suggest it is not necessarily that serious.
It is peculiar that Wieters started Tuesday – even as the designated hitter – if the Orioles were extremely worried. But when Dr. Andrews' name is mentioned in any context having to do with an elbow injury, it hardly seems precautionary.
Wieters recently had forearm tightness that forced him to miss a game and that's sometimes a precursor to UCL injuries -- and in the worst case, Tommy John surgery -- but Wieters shrugged off the injury and quickly returned to the lineup.
Needless to say, losing Wieters for any significant amount of time would be a major hit for the Orioles lineup, especially with first baseman Chris Davis already on the disabled list and Manny Machado just returning to the field.
The biggest hit might be behind the plate, where Wieters is a two-time All-Star. Steve Clevenger can hang in the majors offensively, but the leadership Wieters possesses and the rapport he has with the pitching staff will be hard to duplicate.
There are a lot of questions this morning. Hopefully a few will be answered later today.
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