After handling their young catcher with kid gloves last year, Orioles officials talked this spring about putting more responsibility on the shoulders of Matt Wieters, and that's exactly what they've done through the first two-plus weeks of the season.
Wieters started behind the plate Tuesday night against the Seattle Mariners for the sixth straight game and for the 14th time in the Orioles' 15 contests. The only game he didn't start during a stretch in which the Orioles didn't have a day off was last Wednesday, when Craig Tatum got the call.
"We took it easy on him in the spring and built him up toward the end of the spring," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I thought going into the first part of the season until we had days off, he was going to catch."
Last season, Wieters was called up to the majors May 29, the Orioles' 49th game, so he was with the club for 114 games. During that span, he started 86 games at catcher and 10 at designated hitter. He entered one other game as a pinch hitter, which means that he got 17 full days off after he joined the club last year.
Trembley said he'll likely give Wieters, 23, more days off as the weather starts getting warmer and the grind of the season takes hold. But at this point, Trembley sees no harm in Wieters' early schedule.
"It's not like it's the dog days of July and August," Trembley said. "He's fine, he's a young guy. Like I said, he's the guy and he's the catcher and it's his staff and I'm going to go with him."
That's just fine with Wieters, who said his body feels great after an offseason in which he made conditioning a focus.
"I wouldn't say that I expected it, but it's good the way it has worked out," the second-year catcher said. "If it was later in the year, like June and August and September, I probably wouldn't be catching days after night [games]. But earlier in the year, I still feel good and you try to get as much out of your body as possible. It's going to get worn down as the year goes on, but I feel good and fresh at the beginning of the year, so you try to catch as many games as possible."
Before heading to the team's spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla., and beginning his rehabilitation program, injured Orioles closer Michael Gonzalez stopped in Birmingham, Ala., to get a second opinion on his strained left shoulder from noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews.
"I have no reason to believe that the original prognosis is not the one that comes to fruition, which is to expect him back in like three weeks," president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "I think it's generally a good idea [to get a second opinion]. It's not up to us or not. It's a collectively bargained right that they have, which makes common sense. You're not going to be available for a couple of weeks, so why not? Let's get the information."
Reliever Koji Uehara (left hamstring strain) will throw one inning in an extended spring training game Thursday. Second baseman Brian Roberts (herniated disk in back) has started light aerobic exercise and will see back specialist Dr. Lee Riley again Friday, but Trembley said, "the process will probably be slow."
Third baseman Miguel Tejada (strained hip adductor) took batting practice Tuesday for the first time since Saturday and said he would like to return to the lineup for today's series finale.
Outfielder Corey Patterson, who played for the Orioles in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, agreed to terms Tuesday on a minor league deal with the club. Patterson signed a minor league contract with the Mariners but opted out of it when he was informed that he wouldn't make the club.
He'll report to extended spring training in Sarasota and likely start at Triple-A Norfolk, which lost outfielder Lou Montanez to the parent club last week.
Around the horn
Reliever Alberto Castillo, who was recalled Tuesday to take Brad Bergesen's spot on the roster, was expected to arrive at the stadium before the game and be available to pitch. Castillo had a 5.79 ERA and two saves in five games for Triple-A Norfolk. … The announced crowd of 14,528 for Monday's series opener was the smallest in Safeco Field history. … The Orioles and Ravens will host the third annual O's-Ravens Rally on June 12 at Camden Yards with the New York Mets in town. The first 20,000 fans 15 and over will receive a rally cap, and the game will feature a Ravens player throwing out the first pitch and appearances by the Ravens' cheerleaders, mascot and marching band.