Orioles catcher Matt Wieters left Saturday's matinee with the Minnesota Twins after one inning behind the plate and without taking an at-bat because of right elbow soreness, the team announced.
During his one inning in the field, Wieters made a high throw on a stolen-base attempt by second baseman Eduardo Nunez, who was safe.
Manager Buck Showalter inserted a pinch hitter in Wieters' spot in the bottom of the first inning. He said after the game the Orioles didn't want to take a chance with what they hope is the typical inflammation and soreness a catcher experiences in spring training, and not an issue with the elbow that was repaired by Tommy John surgery in 2014 and has limited Wieters since.
"Doctors examined him and everything, and we'll see," Showalter said. "I think everybody gets alarmed because of, rightfully so, with the surgery there. Hopefully, it'll manage and be OK."
Showalter said Wieters "didn't like the way it felt" when he threw down to second base, and bench coach John Russell could tell Wieters looked off the rest of the inning.
"He said when the inning ended, 'Matt doesn't look comfortable back there,'" Showalter said.
Wieters walked into the clubhouse two innings later, had an X-ray that came back clean, underwent an exam by a team orthopedist as the Orioles' 8-1 win continued without him. Showalter said Wieters was icing the elbow after the game, and the catcher left the facility before the postgame media availability began.
Showalter said he wasn't trying to downplay the possibility that the injury could be serious. But he suggested the soreness could result from the typical dead-arm period position players experience in spring training, the tearing of scar tissue in the surgically repaired elbow or general inflammation.
"There's a lot of guys [who have Tommy John], just about all those guys feel some pop or some discomfort where the scar tissue starts giving a little bit, and he's never had that period. So we'll see if that's what happened today or not," Showalter said. "I'm not going to get into that woe is me. At least, I'm not. Come back in a day or two and we'll be ready to go. If not …"
Wieters had otherwise been enjoying a healthy spring training after accepting the $15.8 million qualifying offer to return to the Orioles this offseason. He caught back-to-back games for the first time this spring earlier in the week, and had collected two hits in 12 spring at-bats over six games.
After the surgery limited him the past two years, Wieters accepted the qualifying offer and is part of a core of veteran players the Orioles were glad to keep around this offseason in free agency. Before he injured his elbow early in the 2014 season, Wieters was hitting the ball as well as he has in his entire career. In 26 games before he went on the disabled list, Wieters hit .308/.339/.500 with five home runs, but elected for the surgery in hopes of returning in time for a full 2015 — his last year before free agency.
Despite aiming to get back for Opening Day, Wieters didn't debut until June 5. He didn't catch consecutive days until July and did so sparingly, splitting time with catcher Caleb Joseph and getting time as the designated hitter. Wieters hit .267/.319/.422 with eight home runs and 14 doubles in 75 games last season.
That injury history is in Showalter's mind, but he has shared optimism with Wieters as the team waits to see how the elbow feels in the coming days.
"It's always a concern because of the history with it, but I'm thinking good things," Showalter said. "Same thing I told Matt."