Orioles analysis: Wieters leading in ways other than hitting

BALTIMORE - When the Baltimore Orioles selected Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters with the fifth pick of the 2007 draft after Wieters batted .359 with 35 home runs and 198 RBIs in 185 career college games, the organization strongly believed Wieters would become a star in the major leagues.

A star who would lead the Orioles offensively for years and develop into the best hitting catcher in baseball.

While he has developed into a solid hitter - much better than league average when compared to others at his position - he has yet to reach that potential.

As for everything else the Orioles expected of Wieters? He has more than exceeded those expectations.

Five seasons into his career, nearing age 27, Wieters already owns two Gold Glove awards, has become one of the best in the game at throwing out would-be base-stealers, and his handling of the Orioles' young pitchers was widely credited for their success a year ago.

Wieters has put all of his defensive strengths on display two weeks into this season.

Wieters threw out 38.6 percent of baserunners trying to steal, third-best in the American League last year. This season, he has thrown out four of five, including a pair on April 6 against the Minnesota Twins.

"We're never, ever running again here in Baltimore," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before the following day's game.

Last season, Wieters caught 1,188 2-3 innings, most in the AL and second-most in the majors behind only Arizona's Miguel Montero. In addition to his ability to throw out baserunners, Wieters' .991 fielding percentage was good enough to earn him his second consecutive Gold Glove.

His performance behind the plate has been at least as big a reason for his two All-Star selections as his performance at the plate.

He hit 22 homers and drove in 83 runs last season. Wieters also hit a two-run homer in the first inning on Opening Day this year off of Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price.

Wieters has also helped along the maturation process of the team's young pitchers. T.J. McFarland made his big-league debut April 6 and pitched 3 1-3 shutout innings, giving up just one hit and striking out five.

Afterward, McFarland said Wieters was a big help.

"I didn't even shake him off the whole time," McFarland said. "I don't think I ever will. He's a very good catcher, very smart, knows all the hitters. He puts a sign down and I throw it."

Wieters didn't have many new pitchers to learn this season. In fact, McFarland was the only Orioles pitcher not on the team in 2012.

Baltimore reliever Troy Patton said Wieters is so strong behind the plate, he doesn't even need familiarity with his pitchers to call an effective game.

"He's so good it doesn't matter if he knows us or not," Patton said. "His raw ability has a lot to do with it."

Wieters certainly did a good job helping out the bullpen last season. The Orioles' relievers had a 3.00 ERA last season, fifth best in the majors.

Patton said the chemistry between the bullpen and Wieters has gone up, and that's an added bonus.

"I think a combination of him being really good at what he does and him just seeing us through last year and the year before, just seeing the way guys pitch," Patton said. "I know he's made me a better pitcher just by knowing what I do and seeing what's successful."