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Observation deck: Matt Wieters returning to O's with help behind the plate

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (right) moves into the batting cage as Caleb Joseph exits on the first day of practice for pitchers and catchers during spring training at the Orioles training facility near Ed Smith Stadium, Friday, Feb 20, 2015.
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (right) moves into the batting cage as Caleb Joseph exits on the first day of practice for pitchers and catchers during spring training at the Orioles training facility near Ed Smith Stadium, Friday, Feb 20, 2015. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Wieters returns under different circumstances: Catcher Matt Wieters is expected to return to the Orioles on Friday after missing nearly 13 months because of Tommy John surgery, and does so in a different catching landscape than he did when his elbow started acting up last May.

There was plenty of panic at the time about the long-term succession plan for Wieters, a free agent after the 2015 season, and that was magnified in the short term with his absence.

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Caleb Joseph was, back then, a name that everyone had heard simply because of how long he'd spent knocking on the door at Double-A Bowie. In August 2013, when his Baysox-record 400th career game with the team became official after five innings, they stopped the game to set off fireworks.

But the player who seemed forever stuck behind Wieters now has advanced far enough that the team is comfortable letting them split the catching duties upon Wieters' return.

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Wieters' bat can be crucial to a team looking for consistent hitting in the middle of the order, and the team might actually be able to get more out of him than usual now that Joseph is a more-than-capable complement behind the plate.

Machado will grow: However poor the call was, third baseman Manny Machado's reaction to a called third strike that resulted in his ejection in the first game of Thursday's doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox was something no player of his caliber should do.

With experience, Machado will learn to pick his spots and allow the passion he so evidently plays with to manifest itself without drawing an umpire's ire.

Machado is due for a leap in production similar to that of fellow 22-year-old star Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. If he's not careful, he could earn the mostly undeserved reputation of brash outbursts that the Nats' blossoming star has, too.

Casual fans aren't enjoying Harper's breakout year as much because they don't want to root for a player with that attached to him. It would be a shame if Machado went down that road as well.

Davis still confounds: Before he broke through with two home runs Tuesday against the Houston Astros, including the eighth-inning eventual game winner, Chris Davis was in the type of funk that makes even the most loyal fans throw up their hands.

He entered that game with just a dozen hits in 78 May at bats, with strikeouts in nearly half of those at-bats (35) and not much power to speak of.

But then he went into one of his patented stretches of productivity. How long Davis can maintain the good swing that launched three home runs in a two-game span will determine how much rope he gets the next time he dips into a slump like the one that consumed most of his May.

There should be a little less pressure on him once Wieters rejoins the lineup, giving the Orioles their optimal batting order for the first time this season. How the order settles around Davis will go a long way toward determining his success, but more games like Tuesday's will serve the Orioles well wherever he ends up batting.

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