Matt Wieters throws out a runner, gets two hits in Bowie debut

Wieters, the Orioles' All-Star catcher, singled twice in four at-bats, and threw out a potential base-stealer in Bowie's 4-2 win over the Erie SeaWolves before an announced 1,871 fans at Bowie's Prince George's Stadium.

Far from the deserted back fields of Florida's Grapefruit League complexes where he's played all spring, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters inched closer to a return from last June's elbow surgery Tuesday.

The All-Star catcher singled twice in four at-bats, and threw out a potential base-stealer in Bowie's 4-2 win over the Erie SeaWolves before an announced 1,871 fans at Bowie's Prince George's Stadium.


Wieters is scheduled to catch every other day for various affiliates before he's eligible to return from the disabled list on June 4, but said his first meaningful game behind the plate since last May 4 went well.

"I feel good right now," Wieters said after the game. "I feel we did a lot of work down in Florida, and caught a lot of games down there. My body actually feels good — it's nice to get out there under the lights and get a little bit of a heartbeat going and play some games with a little bit more meaning."

It's been plenty long since he had that feeling. Wieters was third in the American League with a .342 batting average last May 1, but caught his last game on May 4 and saw a few games as designated hitter before Dr. James Andrews examined his elbow and declared a trip to the DL necessary.

He was prescribed a few weeks rest, but when the soreness didn't subside on his return to baseball activities, Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery.

He began throwing in November, and ramped up his throwing program through the team's minicamp in January and into spring training, with a target return date of Opening Day.

But Wieters caught just one game — on March 17 — before the team shut him down with elbow tendinitis. The aggressive Opening Day timetable no longer an option, Wieters remained in Sarasota when the team broke camp, getting at-bats and catching sporadically in extended spring training games.

Wieters estimated after the game that he had caught 15-20 games in Florida, so Tuesday was more refining and adjusting to a faster game. The SeaWolves didn't test his surgically repaired arm until the eighth inning, when Erie second baseman Curt Powell tried to swipe second base and Wieters cut him down to end the inning.

"It came out good, and I felt like I had a quick release on it and it got there in enough time," Wieters said. "I was happy to be able to make a decent throw on a steal, but I've made some throws down in Florida. I felt confident going into it and I was able to have the ball come out good tonight."

In the ninth, Wieters threw behind shortstop Harold Castro at second base, but the throw was bobbled at the bag.

In four trips to the plate, Wieters singled twice — both on hard ground balls that Powell got a glove on but couldn't gather to make a play. In his other at-bats, he popped out to center field and was retired by Powell.

Wieters said his arm has taken to an every-other-day catching schedule in Florida, and that will continue Thursday and Saturday in Bowie. He will take batting practice with the Orioles at Camden Yards Wednesday, and every other non-rehab game day during his stint with the Baysox. Wieters could serve as Bowie's designated hitter Friday if he doesn't see the ball well Thursday, he said.

Once Bowie goes on the road after Sunday's game, he could play at Frederick on Monday and Norfolk next Wednesday to stay on schedule before he's eligible to return June 4. Once back with the Orioles, he would likely split time behind the plate with Caleb Joseph, who has been the team's everyday catcher through the first two months of the season.

"I think five, six games will be good to get me ready to go for the year with all the games I've played down in Florida," Wieters said.

"Right now, that day off in between is big for me," he said. "I felt like I could catch in between if needed, but I think Caleb's doing such a great job that we can bring it along slowly and make sure we get that rest day in between, which has been good for it so far."