The Orioles and starting catcher Matt Wieters have until Feb. 12 to come to an agreement concerning his 2014 salary before an arbitration hearing that day in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Wieters, who made $5.5 million in 2013, filed for $8.75 million whereas the Orioles countered with $6.5 million. If the sides can’t agree on a salary, a three-person arbitration panel will pick one number or the other.
The sides are attempting to get a deal done -- and Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said he was hopeful an agreement could be reached this week. They are not currently discussing anything but a one-year contract with Wieters, who cannot be a free agent until after the 2015 season.
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Wieters, 27, hit .235 with 22 home runs and 79 RBIs in 148 games with the Orioles last year. The Orioles are 9-1 in arbitration hearings while attorney Peter Angelos has owned the team. The Orioles have settled with the rest of their arbitration-eligible players this offseason.
** The Orioles have selected a bullpen catcher with close ties to one of the club’s established stars.
Jett Ruiz, a 27-year-old from San Diego who caught collegiately at Boston College and spent two years in independent league ball in the Frontier League, will come to spring training as the club’s newest bullpen catcher and, assuming everything goes well in Sarasota, Fla., in the next two months, will stay with the Orioles throughout 2014.
He will replace Ronnie Deck, who spent six seasons in the role and has been reassigned to an amateur scouting position in Oklahoma.
Ruiz, who was one of three candidates to try out for the position last month, was a youth travel-ball teammate of Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. The Ruiz family was exceptionally close to Jones while he was growing up in San Diego. Ruiz also will be used by the Orioles as a batting practice pitcher.
** The Orioles have some interest in infielder-outfielder Emilio Bonifacio, who was designated for assignment by the Kansas City Royals on Saturday.
Bonifacio, 28, batted .243 with three homers and 28 stolen bases in 136 combined games last year for the Toronto Blue Jays and Royals.
Versatile enough to play second base, shortstop, third base and every outfield spot, Bonifacio’s best season was in 2011 when he stole 40 bases and hit .296 with a .360 on-base percentage for the Florida Marlins.
He is owed $3.5 million in 2014 and likely will be dealt to a team that would pick up most, if not all, of his salary. Bonifacio is the same type of player -- a better hitter, but not quite as strong defensively -- as Alexi Casilla, whom the Orioles signed to a minor league deal this offseason. Casilla, who played for the Orioles last year, is expected to compete for the utility infielder role.