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Buck Showalter on Matt Wieters: 'You wouldn't think he'd ever been hurt'

Buck Showalter on Matt Wieters: 'You wouldn't think he'd ever been hurt'
Matt Wieters puts on his catching gear before warming up with pitcher Zach Britton in the bullpen March 1. (Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters won't throw from the catching position in today's minor league exhibition game against the Puerto Rican developmental team today, but before the game, Wieters' throws were timed during a pregame workout.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter liked the results.

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"You can tell in Matt's face," Showalter said. "We put the clock on him today for the first time. That was real encouraging, because we know where he is when he's normal. And with nobody running, he's there. If you came out here to watch him throw, you wouldn't think he'd ever been hurt."

Even though he won’t throw to the bases, Wieters will catch back-to-back games for the first time since having Tommy John surgery in June. Both exhibition games  he will catch Sunday’s B game against the Pittsburgh Pirates will be in controlled environments. If everything goes well, Wieters will take Monday off and catch his first Grapefruit League game Tuesday at home against the Minnesota Twins.

Showalter is still optimistic that Wieters will be ready in time for Opening Day.

"I have the same amount" of optimism, Showalter said. "I had confidence; it was just a matter of when. ... After [Tuesday], I'll have a [better idea]. Really, [Wednesday,] when he comes back in off it, I know he's excited about it. He'll probably underplay it. You see that each process is another step. Today, I think he's kind of anxious to see how his legs feel. He's done more with his legs this spring than he normally does because he knows he's going to start later. I'm kind of curious to see how many innings he wants to catch today."

Showalter said Wieters would decide that, but added that by the time he makes his Grapefruit League debut, Showalter would like Wieters to be able to catch five to seven innings.

"It's completely up to him," he said. "He threw better today. He throws better each time. Today was the first time we had a clock on him throwing. He's ready. I think, unless he has something happen the next couple days, he'll be ready on Tuesday."

If Wieters is ready for Opening Day, there will be a logjam at the catcher position. Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger, as well as newcomers J.P. Arencibia and Ryan Lavarnway, are all battling for major league roster spots. Brian Ward was also in major league camp before being reassigned to minor league camp.

"We're aware of it," Showalter said. "We're barely a third of the way. We still have 20 games down here, so to start making a lot of commitments about it, and there's two injuries, you're scrambling again. We're in a good position. We like where we are, and it usually sorts itself out."

Because they're behind on spring at bats, Joseph and Lavarnway will get some plate appearances in the game against the Puerto Rican developmental team.

Some other notes:

-- Showalter said he's leaning toward carrying an extra position player for Opening Day at Tampa Bay. First baseman Chris Davis will be serving the final game of a 25-game suspension against the Rays. Having a day off before the team's home opener gives Showalter confidence that he won't need an extra pitcher.

"If we're not ready to go physically with the 12 pitchers we've got, something's wrong," Showalter said. "For three games, we should be fine with the off-day sitting there."

-- Showalter also indicated that the order of the team's pitching rotation to open the season might be surprising. Showalter suggested that he plans to slot the starters based on matchups.

"I know you will and should handicap our first five pitchers one through five, but we'll probably have somebody in a slot you might question because the matchup is better," Showalter said.

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