If the circumstances were different, Matt Wieters might have been surrounded by reporters during Thursday’s media availability at Camden Yards.
As his Orioles teammates faced cameras and questions, the injured catcher faced the reality of sitting out the team’s first American League Championship Series in 17 years.
Wieters, who hasn't played since early May and underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in June, said the 2014 playoffs are the most significant games that he has missed since he had to sit out a summer All-Star game as a 13-year-old in Goose Creek, S.C.
“It’s difficult in the aspect that you want to be out there with your guys, you want to be out there on the battlefield playing, but at the same time, the way the guys have played have really made it easier for me,” Wieters said. “You never want to be the guy where others are saying, ‘What if, what if, what if?'”
Wieters said the way Nick Hundley and Caleb Joseph have played in his place have eased what has been his most difficult season.
“The way Caleb and Nick have played, this team is as good as they can be,” Wieters said.
Nick Markakis, who sat out his first chance at the playoffs in 2012 when he broke his thumb late in the season after getting hit with a pitch by the New York Yankees' CC Sabathia, said he can empathize for what Wieters is going through now.
“It’s tough, a lot of hard work down the drain, it’s like someone just let the air out of your sails,” Markakis said. “I know he’s happy for us, but I know he’s a little disappointed at the way things turned out. Every time you step between those lines, you take the chance of something like that happening.”
Hundley, who came to the Orioles from the San Diego Padres in a trade shortly after it was apparent that Wieters was lost for the season, said the All-Star catcher has been an invaluable part of the team as it ran away in the AL East and began its march in the playoffs.
“For me personally, he’s been instrumental,” Hundley said Thursday. “Getting acclimated to the pitching staff, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of our guys, trying to put them in a successful position … it’s evident just by the way he’s treated in the locker room that he’s been a leader in the clubhouse and on the field for a long time. This is his team.”
Wieters believes that watching from a distance, as well as helping scout during the playoffs, will help him once he returns to the field. He also thinks it will help the team’s pitching staff.
“I think you can take a positive out of anything,” Wieters said. “Me being detached from the pitching staff most of the year, it’s nice to see how much ownership they’ve taken. I think it’s going to be an extreme improvement for all these pitchers. It’s definitely something they can take forward in their careers.”