ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Matt Wieters participated in pregame drills at first base for the second straight day and manager Buck Showalter said the Orioles catcher could see time there in the future.
While having Wieters available to play first base gives the Orioles another option with Chris Davis in right field, Steve Pearce on the disabled list and Chris Parmelee scuffling offensively, it would also give the team another way to keep Wieters' bat in the lineup more regularly since he has caught on back-to-back days just once since returning from Tommy John surgery in June.
"Matt's doing it on his own, but yeah, [it's] in case we've got to put him over there," Showalter said. "We've come close a couple times. He'll be fine over there. Mainly, it's just the footwork more than anything so you don't worry about something with a runner down the line. There's a lot of similarities to catching. Make sure we have our options available."
Wieters started for the seventh time in eight games since the All-Star break Saturday, but two of those starts came as the team's designated hitter and he also received an off day between road series in Detroit and New York. But since starting back-on-back days at catcher on July 6 and 7 in Minnesota, Wieters has yet to catch on consecutive days again.
"I don't know how soon it will be," Wieters said. "Building up my [arm] strength is something I want to do, but at the same time when we did it in Minnesota, it was a good point in the schedule to try it. And after doing it in Minnesota, I realized I didn't feel like I was that available for the next game or even that day off we had after it. I'd rather be able to be available each day rather than catching two days and feeling like I'd have to take a day or two days completely off.
"I want to be able to be there to pinch hit or catch later in the game. As a player, it's tough if I start to catch back-to-back games that I can't do anything for a day and it always puts Buck in a tough spot or Caleb [Joseph] in a tough spot where he might have to play through something that he normally might not play through."
Getting occasional time at first base could be another option — utility man Ryan Flaherty started there Saturday for the second time this week — especially since it would create less stress on his arm.
"It's an option," Wieters said. "It's definitely something I'd be willing to do and play if that's where Buck wants me to go. It's probably not something where I go every other day — catch, first base, catch, first base. But it's something where we can do it. The only thing we can do is see how it goes with the arm and go from there. At first base, you're not going to have the high-intensity throws where you have to have that performance sort of factor to it. If you get rid of the ball quick and just make an accurate throw to second, that's pretty much the longest throw you can make as a first baseman."
Playing first would also be less problematic for shifting Wieters to catcher later in the game. If Wieters starts a game as the DH and has to move to catcher, the team would lose its DH spot, forcing the pitcher to hit.
"It's something we've considered, but it also keeps him in the game if there's a problem with Caleb physically even though I don't mind DH-ing him," Showalter said. "That's kind of like the same thing. It's not the bugaboo people think it is. You really don't lose your DH. At that time of the game, you're going to hit for your pitcher anyway."
Staying calm through struggles
Despite a difficult July that has put their postseason hopes in jeopardy with next week's trade deadline looming, the Orioles have tried to keep it loose inside the clubhouse.
The day after their fourth straight loss, center fielder Adam Jones tweeted that it wasn't time to sacrifice a live chicken yet, a joking reference from the popular baseball movie "Major League."
"I like the way they've gone about it since the first day of spring," Showalter said. "This is a group I'm very proud of. There are so many influences that they get bombarded with every day who don't really know the walk they're walking. I tell them all the time, they hear from me every day, 'Stay together. You guys are the only ones who really know what you're up against.'
"These guys are good over here [in Tampa Bay]. And those guys we played [in New York] were good. And the guys we're going to play in Atlanta. It's just so hard to do, and that's what makes it even more gratifying when you're able to do it because you know you've taken everybody's best shot every night."
Showalter again expressed confidence that his existing group can still make the postseason. When asked if the club is close to bringing up some of the organization's top prospects from Triple-A, Showalter said he's focused on his current 25-man roster.
"I'm not going to handicap," Showalter said. "We're always looking for ways to get better from within. I'm talking from within being the 25 people here. I'm not going to start weighing in on [reinforcements from the minors]. That's the way I look at it."
Around the horn
The Orioles starting rotation will stay in turn for next week's home series against the Braves. Right-hander Kevin Gausman will start the series opener Monday, right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez will start Tuesday and right-hander Chris Tillman on Wednesday. … The Orioles will face left-handed starters in three of their next four games. They face Matt Moore in the series finale against the Rays on Sunday. Left-hander Alex Wood, right-hander Julio Teheran and left-hander Manny Banuelos are scheduled to start for the Braves. The Orioles are 13-8 against left-handed starters this season. …After Jones recorded his seventh outfield assist Friday, the Orioles extended their major league- leading total to 27. … Former Triple-A Norfolk right-hander Michael Bowden, who opted out of his minor league contract last week, has signed a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins. Bowden led the International League with a 1.91 ERA at the time of his departure.