Advertisement
Orioles

Matt Wieters expected to catch for Orioles next Friday

If all goes as planned this week, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will make his first big league appearance in nearly 13 months next Friday in Cleveland.

Wieters, who last caught for the Orioles on May 4, 2014 and hasn't played in the big leagues since acting as the club's designated hitter May 10, 2014, is currently rehabilitating his surgically repaired right elbow in minor league games.

Advertisement

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Wieters will catch Saturday at Double-A Bowie, Monday at high Single-A Frederick and Wednesday at Triple-A Norfolk before joining the Orioles on Friday, June 5. Showalter said Wieters will start that night in the first of a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians.

"You can tell Matt feels good," Showalter said. "I watched the last two innings last night [at Bowie] and I called him afterward on my way home. You can just tell in his voice and his body language that he's real close."

Advertisement

Wieters is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list June 4, but will not go to Houston that day for the Orioles' finale against the Astros, and instead will fly to Cleveland.

If he suffers no setbacks, Wieters will have returned to the Orioles before the one-year anniversary of his elbow-ligament-replacement surgery (Tommy John), which was June 17, 2014.

Wieters was hoping to return much more quickly, but after catching for the first time in spring training March 17, he felt soreness in the elbow and the club slowed his rehab.

It has been a long waiting process since, and even now Showalter doesn't want to discuss the idea of finally getting his three-time All-Star back until it happens.

"I'm not going to jinx it. I'm not talking about it anymore," Showalter said. "I've already talked about it more than I should."

When Wieters returns, he will continue to get a day off between starts to rest his elbow -- he has yet to catch on consecutive days. That means he'll initially split time with Caleb Joseph, who has hit .261 and played solid defense in Wieters' absence.

"It's going to be a slow process. I've sort of come to terms with that. It's not going to be going back to catching four, five days in a row," Wieters said earlier this week. "It's all about feel. The every-other-day thing feels good now and as soon as that little bit of soreness that we have in between is gone, we'll start by picking up a ball the day after I catch and go from there. Every other day is better than not playing at all for me right now."

Currently, Steve Clevenger is the club's backup catcher. He could stay in the majors when Wieters is activated as catching insurance, though Showalter said Wieters would be able to catch a couple of innings at the end of a game he didn't start if the starting catcher was removed.

Advertisement

"I talked to Matt about that in the last day or so," Showalter said. "He will be able to catch [as], say, the second catcher if we want to pinch hit or pinch run for [the starter]. Matt will be OK to finish that game. So his physical status will not require us to carry three catchers unless we want to."

Showalter said Wieters could be an option to serve as designated hitter in games when he is not catching.

Wieters, 29, hit .308 in 26 games for the Orioles last year before his injury. He has two hits in nine at-bats in his first two games at Bowie this week.

Today is the six-year anniversary of Wieters' major league debut, arguably the most hyped in franchise history.

De Aza's departure creates opportunity

One of the residual effects of designating veteran outfielder Alejandro De Aza for assignment Thursday is that it frees up some playing time for left-handed-hitting outfielders Travis Snider and David Lough. Both were in the starting lineup in the second game of Thursday's doubleheader and Friday night.

Advertisement

It was the first time since June 9-10, 2014 that Lough has started consecutive games. Snider and Lough each had two hits in the Game 2 on Thursday in an Orioles victory.

"There's always been an opportunity. There was an opportunity when [De Aza] was here. Somebody take it and run with it. OK?" Showalter said. "We are always looking for that. The good thing is we have people capable of doing it."

Snider, who has started 28 of the club's 47 games this year, said the potential of more playing time is bittersweet with the loss of De Aza, who the Orioles are still trying to trade.

"De Aza was a great part of this team, a great teammate. It's always tough when you see good guys go. But knowing he is going to have plenty of opportunities ahead of him … we are excited for him to go get those chances," Snider said. "We understand, all of us in here, the business side of things when they make those decisions. Me, being a left-handed outfielder, yeah that could mean more playing time. But I also look at it as I have to control what I can control."

Around the horn

Catcher Ryan Lavarnway cleared waivers Friday and was outrighted to Norfolk. He refused the assignment and has elected free agency. Lavarnway, 27, had three hits in 28 at-bats (.107 average) in 10 games for the Orioles … Right-hander Kevin Gausman (right shoulder) threw 32 pitches in live batting practice Friday at Camden Yards. He is still scheduled to pitch three innings in an injury-rehab start June 6, likely for Norfolk. … Infielder Jonathan Schoop (knee) is continuing to rehab in Sarasota. … Showalter said he considered adding a reliever from the minors for Friday's game, but felt like the bullpen would be OK. The Orioles could still add a reliever Saturday, however, Showalter said. ... All fans at Camden Yards for Saturday's game will receive a "Rock the Yard" T-shirt designed by closer Zach Britton, the first of five T-shirts designed by players this year.

Advertisement

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun


Advertisement