Orioles catcher Matt Wieters knows the San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey well.
They competed against each other in the Atlantic Coast Conference, as Wieters went to Georgia Tech and Posey starred at Florida State. They attended the Johnny Bench ceremony together as two of the nominees for the nation's top catcher award. They were both drafted fifth overall, one year apart, and made their major league debuts amid enormous expectations.
So Wieters' initial reaction when he saw highlights of Wednesday's collision at home plate between Posey and the Florida Marlins' Scott Cousins, which resulted in the Giants' backstop suffering a fractured bone in his left leg and sustaining ligament damage in his ankle — injuries that may end his season — was one of empathy.
"It's tough because it's such an unfortunate injury, especially to such a good young player," said Wieters, who expressed his regards to Posey in a text message to Giants first baseman and former teammate Aubrey Huff. Wieters said that he hoped to get Posey's phone number so he could wish him well directly. "But it's something that can happen to anyone that's out on the field. You can have one of those freak accidents that's going to cost you some time."
Posey's injury hit close to home for the Orioles, offering a firm reminder of Wieters' importance, and the dangers of life behind the plate. The Cleveland Indians lost their talented young catcher, Carlos Santana, to a season-ending injury last August after he was involved in a collision with the Boston Red Sox's Ryan Kalish.
But that didn't generate nearly the attention as this week's injury to Posey, the 24-year-old who won National League Rookie of the Year honors last season and was one of the main cogs in the Giants' run to a World Series championship.
The Orioles count on Wieters in a similar way that the Giants lean on Posey, both to guide the pitching staff and to produce runs.
"That doesn't have to happen for me to know that," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said when asked if Posey's injury reflected just how important Wieters is to the club. "Nobody likes to think about a season without any of their players, especially someone like Buster Posey. We'll see. There's certain ways you can teach it fundamentally, but the game doesn't always let you play it that way. Sometimes, you move away and you get caught at a tough angle. I've found that most injuries on a baseball field happen when a player is out of balance. Sometimes, it's unavoidable like it was with Buster [Wednesday] night."
While most baseball pundits have opined that Cousins' play was clean and he did score the game-winning run, Posey's injury has sparked debate in the sport about whether there should be rules put in place to prevent the type of collision that occurred.
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, a former big league catcher, would certainly have been an advocate of that step.
"It's part of baseball, I understand that, guys running into catchers. Being a catcher, I've been in a few of them. You're in harm's way there," Bochy told reporters before the Giants game on Thursday. "I think we do need to consider changing the rules here a little bit because the catcher is so vulnerable and there's so many who have gotten hurt. And not just a little bit — had their careers ended or shortened. And here's a guy who's very popular in baseball. Fans want to see him play. Now he's out for a while."
Several times this season Wieters, who is one of the game's bigger catchers at 6 feet 5, 225 pounds, has blocked the plate and tagged out baserunners, drawing praise from Showalter for his execution, technique and guts. Wieters, who said that he's had headaches the day after certain collisions but never anything more serious, did not advocate for any rule changes.
"It's something where I'd really have to see how they would change the ruling. Are they going to draw a line where a guy can hit the catcher or a guy can't hit the catcher?" Wieters said. "It's something where you are trying to get him out, he's trying to score any way he can. If it's something where if guys are going out of their way to hit catchers, [that's different]. But if it's something where they are just trying to score a run, then it's part of the game."
Showalter agreed, though he opted to keep most of his thoughts on the matter to himself.
"It's been part of the game for a long time," he said. "It doesn't mean that it's right or wrong. I'd like to think whether it was Buster Posey or a second catcher somewhere, we'd have the same response that we do today. But I don't know if that's the case. I'm sad for him, I'm sad for the fans more than anything. But some things like that are unavoidable."
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