Brian Matusz walks back to the mound after giving up a three-run… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
TORONTO — —
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters made his much-anticipated big league debut against the Detroit Tigers a year ago today to huge expectations and a near-capacity crowd at Camden Yards.
Wieters remembers the night vividly, but so much has happened since that the 24-year-old, switch-hitting catcher didn't realize that today's game will give him a full year in the big leagues.
"I didn't realize it was coming up that fast," Wieters said. "We've played so many games and had so many road trips, I don't even know what day it is. I knew May 29 was the day I came up, but I didn't know when that was going to come up this year on the calendar.
"It was definitely a fast year, but when you're up here every day, you realize how hard it is to stay at this level and how much you have to put into it. In the minor leagues, you sort of get used to the grind on your body playing every day, but there's not as much focus going into every pitch, every hit, every pitcher you have to study. There's a lot more of a mental grind you have to go through up here."
Wieters is batting .255 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 46 games this season. In 141 career games heading into Friday night, he had hit .280 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs to go along with a slugging percentage of .398 and an on-base percentage of .339.
He acknowledged that he has had some struggles offensively and his power still hasn't translated to the big leagues on a regular basis. However, Wieters takes the most pride in the strides that he has made defensively and with his handling of a mostly young pitching staff.
He also knows that he had no chance to live up to the expectations that were created when the Orioles took him fifth overall in the 2007 draft, gave him a franchise-record $6 million signing bonus and then watched him tear through Single-A and Double-A, hitting a combined .343 with 32 homers and 121 RBIs in 162 games, and posting a .438 on-base percentage and a .576 slugging percentage.
"Offensively, it's a struggle in this league, especially in this division," Wieters said. "You're going to face a lot of tough pitchers. I definitely feel like you have to battle through some tough times and you're going to hit OK. But there is definitely some improvement that has to be made."
Meredith sent to Norfolk
The Orioles optioned struggling reliever Cla Meredith to Triple-A Norfolk to create a roster spot for Chris Tillman, who will start today's game.
"I don't panic, but I'm not the one who calls the shots around here," said Meredith, who was 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 21 appearances and had allowed at least one base runner in eight straight outings. "I'm kind of at the mercy of my employer. I'm 26 years old, my arm's very healthy, as is the rest of my body, and I envision pitching for a long time, whether it's here or somewhere else. I learned a couple years ago you can only control the things you can control -- this is one those things I can't really control."
Meredith surrendered the game-winning hits in back-to-back outings -- a game-ending homer by the Washington Nationals' Josh Willingham on Sunday and a bases-loaded double to the Oakland Athletics' Kevin Kouzmanoff on Thursday.
"Until last week, I was getting to talk about good stuff. But that's kind of the life of a reliever," he said. "If you are a hitter and you have a bad week, so what? When you're a relief pitcher, it's a little more magnified."
From starter to long reliever
Manager Dave Trembley has said several times recently that he won't define roles for his relievers, but it's become clear how he plans to use David Hernandez for the time being. Though yet to make a relief appearance since being taken out of the rotation in favor of today's starter, Tillman, Hernandez has warmed up twice, and both times it has been with a starter struggling in the early innings (Brian Matusz on Wednesday and Brad Bergesen on Thursday).
"I think that is the way to go with Hernandez," Trembley said. "Because he hasn't pitched out of the bullpen, he does have his pitch count up. For me, he's a better guy right now to pitch in long relief. And I think that with the job [Jason] Berken has done, move him toward later in the game."
Markakis rejoins club
Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis' wife, Christina, gave birth to the couple's second child, Tucker Edward, at 8:21 p.m. Thursday. The two arrived at Greater Baltimore Medical Center about 7 in the morning.
"It was just a long, long, drawn-out process," said Markakis, who missed Thursday night's game but was back in the lineup Friday night. "When you induce, you never know. When he came, it was awesome."
Around the horn
Billy Rowell, the Orioles' first-round pick in 2006, has been reassigned temporarily from High-A Frederick to Short-A Aberdeen's roster because of a thumb injury as well as an undisclosed minor disciplinary issue. Rowell, who was batting .256 with four homers and 22 RBIs for the Keys, is expected back in Frederick within days. In a corresponding move, Frederick activated shortstop Greg Miclat from the disabled list.
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