Matt Wieters said he expects to catch every other day next week at Double-A Bowie and believes a return to the Orioles when he is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list June 4 is a distinct possibility.
"I think so," said Wieters, who joined his teammates at Marlins Park on Friday from Sarasota, Fla., where he has been playing in extended spring training games rehabilitating his surgically repaired right elbow. "The last few games I've gone out there and played, the feelings of being able to get back in a big league game are there. It's not quite back to where it was yet, but it feels good enough to get back playing at this level."
Wieters, who turned 29 on Thursday, has not played in a major league game since May 10, 2014, and hasn't caught in the majors since May 4 of last season. He had elbow-ligament (Tommy John) surgery on June 17, 2014, and has been rehabbing since.
He was with the team in spring training, and caught once during a Grapefruit League game March 17. But after feeling discomfort, the team pulled back on his throwing progression.
He still hasn't caught in consecutive games, and likely won't initially when he returns to the Orioles.
"The thing is, catching every other day you can still catch three days a week," Wieters said. "When we've tried to push that back-to-back, we've had to take a few more days off after that than we want to. I think if we let the arm just tell us, 'OK, let's try throwing today,' and then it will be a progression from there."
Because Caleb Joseph is holding his own as the club's starting catcher -- he's hitting .260 with three homers in his first 100 at-bats and has been solid defensively -- Wieters doesn't have to come back and play six out of seven games as he did in the past.
"It's tough [not playing]," Wieters said. "Caleb has been doing a great job, been able to watch what he's doing behind the plate. And on top of that, my arm will let me know when I'm ready, and it feels good now."
Wieters will be doing throwing drills Saturday, take batting practice and will catch some bullpen sessions to get himself reacquainted with the Orioles staff. He'll go to Double-A Bowie and play the first game of his injury rehab assignment there Tuesday. He'll play there every other day for a week, and will join the Orioles at Camden Yards on the days he isn't playing.
He said he has no problems swinging a bat and feels no pain unleashing throws anymore. He said his accuracy is where it needs to be as well.
"I've been swinging every day and hitting, there is no feeling of any kind of doubt with it when I'm swinging," he said. "And, really, throwing there's no doubt. It's just a matter of when I do throw, I do need to take a little bit of time off the next day to feel good the [following] day."
In other Orioles news, infielder Everth Cabrera (foot) was activated from the DL on Friday and infielder Rey Navarro was sent to Triple-A Norfolk.
Infielder Everth Cabrera (foot) was activated from the DL on Friday, and infielder Rey Navarro was sent to Norfolk.
Cabrera, who went on the DL on May 7 with a bruised left foot after being hit by a pitch, said the time off helped clear his mind mentally. He had been hitless in his 17 at-bats with the Orioles before the injury.
"Actually, it was kind of a good moment that happened," said Cabrera, who hit .208 in six games for Norfolk. "Taking those 15 days, I was kind of struggling a little bit at the plate. And take those couple games over there to calm down a little bit, just relax more and see things. I feel really good to play the game."
Navarro, who has hit .276 in 10 games with the Orioles, is expected to join Norfolk in time to play Sunday afternoon.
"I take it like a mature person. I just love to play baseball anywhere," Navarro said of his demotion. "I want to be here every day, but it's just a matter of time, like I said, and I'll be ready for it."
** Third baseman Manny Machado, who grew up in Miami as a Marlins fan, played in front of the hometown crowd for the first time in his big league career Friday.
"I'm excited my family is going to watch me play in my hometown, excited to be back home," said Machado, who starred at tiny Brito Miami Private, where his graduating class was 32. "I've always dreamed of this moment, to come play in Marlins Stadium. The day's here. I'll try and soak it all in."
Machado said his mother worked for an employer that had season tickets, so he would go to as many games as he could, including the 2003 playoffs. He was at Game 4 of the National League Division Series game when catcher Ivan Rodriguez held onto a throw at the plate despite being run into by San Francisco's J.T. Snow to help secure a Marlins victory and send them to the NL Championship Series.
Infielder Ryan Flaherty (groin) is expected to play nine innings in extended spring Saturday. If all goes well, Showalter said Flaherty could join Norfolk on Monday or Tuesday for a injury rehab assignment. … Infielder Jonathan Schoop (knee) did not join the Orioles in Miami to work out. Earlier this week, Showalter said that was a possibility, but said the organization decided to keep him working with the training staff in Sarasota. … Left-hander Wesley Wright (trapezius) threw one inning in an extended spring game Friday. … Right-hander Jason Garcia (shoulder) is continuing strength exercises in Sarasota, but is not yet throwing. … Right-hander Brad Bergesen, who pitched with the club from 2009 to 2011, signed a deal with the York (Pa.) Revolution of the independent Atlantic League, the Revolution announced. Bergesen, 29, last pitched in the majors with Arizona in 2012. … Former Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson joins radio play-by-play man Joe Angel this weekend in broadcasting games for 105.7 The Fan. Angel's longtime partner, Fred Manfra, has the weekend trip off.