CLEVELAND — After Matt Wieters hit his first home run in more than a year in Sunday's 7-3 Orioles win against the Cleveland Indians, he rounded the bases and headed to the dugout.
Instead of greeting him with high-fives, Wieters' teammates acted as if nothing happened. The only congratulations he received was a fist bump from trainer Richie Bancells.
Welcome back, Wheaty. The joke's on you.
In case you haven't noticed, this team has a different feel to it with Wieters back and playing. Wieters has an obvious calming influence on his teammates, both to the hitters in the Orioles lineup and the pitchers with whom he works.
And having Wieters, shortstop J.J. Hardy and third baseman Manny Machado on the field regularly for the first time since 2013 definitely helps morale. The only one missing now is second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
In Wieters' third game back, Orioles manager Buck Showalter put him in the cleanup spot, the first time he hit there since April 20, 2013. What did he do? Just leg out his first triple since 2012 and hit a ninth-inning homer, his first since May 1 of last year.
In three games, Wieters is 6-for-12 with a double, triple and homer. He has hits in all three of his games.
The two Orioles' starters who have struggled the most this season, right-hander Norris and right-hander Chris Tillman, both had strong starts with Wieters behind the plate in his first two games catching. That's not a knock on Caleb Joseph at all, because he's done a great job working with pitchers, but there is an inherent comfort level the pitchers have with Wieters from working with him over the years.
Nice return for Norris
It was just one start, but fans have to feel good about right-hander Bud Norris' first outing off the disabled list. He was held to 85 pitches because it was his first start back. Otherwise, he could have gone six innings, maybe more, having allowed just one run on four hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.
Heading into Sunday's start Norris said he used his time on the disabled list trying to refine his mechanics and find his arm slot.
"I pitch with fastball command, every guy does," Norris said. "And my slider is my second best pitch, so early in the year I definitely was lacking in a couple things, but to have the month and to really kind of fine tune my mechanics and have Wieters and get all the feedback I've gotten the last couple rehab starts, I was just really excited to go out there and compete. I know I'm a good pitcher I and know I can do this for a long time and I just wanted to get back out there and help my team win."
Wieters said after the game that Norris looked better than he did in spring training, saying his arm angle is better and his slider has more depth
"I think he's got a lot more angle, which as a hitter, it makes it a lot tougher to be able to time him up right," Wieters said.
Paredes back on track?
One interesting development to watch is how Wieters DHing will affect Jimmy Paredes, who has cooled down after a scorching start to the season.
On Sunday, Paredes recorded his first multi-hit hit game in 10 games. Before Sunday, Paredes had just two hits in his last 32 at bats, and his batting average fell 45 points, from. 343 to .298. He was also dropped in the batting order from the No. 2 spot to the bottom half.
Paredes had some hard-hit balls earlier this week in Houston that were just finding defenders, but a 2-for-5 afternoon might have helped him break out of his slump.
"Jimmy put some good swings on the ball today," Showalter said. "How nice would it be to get him going again."
When Manny Machado was bunting for base hits and stealing bases in spring training, he said it was because the spring was for trying a little bit of everything.
But Machado's done a good job of adding those facets to his game. In the third inning Sunday, Machado dropped a textbook bunt down the third-base line for a bunt single. He had two infield hits, including an RBI single on a slow roller to shortstop.
He's already stolen eight bases on nine attempts, bettering his career high of six (in 13 attempts) in 2013.
Adam Jones will enter Tuesday with a five-game hitting streak. He's hitting .476 (10-for-21) over that span and has six extra-base hits (one double, two triples, three homers).