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Matt Wieters' game-winning hit made more meaningful after spring elbow scare

The last time the Minnesota Twins saw Orioles catcher Matt Wieters before Opening Day, he had his bat bag slung over his shoulder on his way to the initial examination on his sore right elbow in Sarasota, Fla.

Given the scare Wieters went through with his surgically repaired elbow in March, the impression he left the Twins with Monday — him being mobbed by teammates after his game-winning single — was all the sweeter.

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"It meant a lot for him to get back here, because two weeks ago, three weeks ago, he could have gotten into that, 'Here we go again.' " Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We stayed positive with it, trainers and doctors said that he didn't have what we were worried about, and he worked his way back from it."

What Showalter is referring to is the March 12 scare where Wieters made a throw to second base on a stolen base in the first inning of a spring training game against the Twins. He was lifted after the first inning after feeling what he later described as tightness.

Within a few days days, Wieters reported that he felt better, and an MRI revealed no structural damage on the elbow he had Tommy John surgery on in 2014. Within two weeks, he was back throwing, and any thought of him beginning the season on the disabled list disappeared last Tuesday when he caught a Grapefruit League game.

The concern for a more serious injury was clear, given the nature of elbow injuries and Wieters' past. But as the team got past that concern, it was more of a matter of getting him enough at-bats. He played three straight times and caught twice to end the spring, and was all systems go for Opening Day.

Showalter said Wieters put together a good game. He struck out looking on the 10th pitch of his first at-bat, had two well-hit outs, and struck out looking again in a nine-pitch at-bat in the seventh inning.

The walk-off single, and the accompanying pie in the face from Adam Jones, was a fitting cap on that night.

"Matt had some really good at-bats tonight," Showalter said. "I know he's going to think about the two [where] the guy just out-guessed him. He hit a couple balls hard. I thought he was on a lot of pitches tonight. Those are little things you take."

"It was nice to get an opportunity there, because you're thinking about that a little bit, not during the game, but after the game," Wieters said. "If it's not always the last opportunity that was the big one. I was glad to be able to get another chance and drive in a run."

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