Showalter opts to rest Wieters

Catcher wants to play, but manager insists on careful use of young star

April 30, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

CHICAGO — A day after he hit a go-ahead, two-run homer, drove in four runs and threw out a speedy base runner to end a difficult inning, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters was on the bench.

With a day game Sunday following tonight's contest, Orioles manager Buck Showalter opted to start Jake Fox behind the plate, and have Wieters catch rookie left-hander Zach Britton in Game Three of the series.

"I think it's tougher to jeopardize or risk losing Matt than it is to make decisions on whether to play him," Showalter said. "We all know the level that he's capable of playing at, which he is now. Sometime I think we should all go squat down for three hours and go back and forth for four or five days in a row and see how you feel, regardless if you're 24 or 25 years old and 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5 … We'll continue to pick spots for him."

Wieters's importance to the club, both in handling a young pitching staff and providing offense from the bottom of the order, makes it a delicate balance on when to give him a rest. He is still 24 years old and the Orioles certainly don't want to wear down the catcher, especially so early in the season.

Wieters has started 22 of the team's first 25 games behind the plate, including 11 straight before tonight. Last season, he started 23 of the Orioles' first 25 games, a workload that resulted in some criticism toward then manager Dave Trembley with the catcher struggling offensively.

"I feel good," Wieters said. "I had no complaints last year when I played as much as I did. I enjoy being back there every day, I enjoy catching as much as possible. I take pride in going back there and calling a good game for the guys on the mound. You always want your pitchers to want you behind the plate."

Wieters, who entered tonight second on the team in RBIs (16) and tied for second in home runs (four), pointed out that this April was much different than the first month last year. The Orioles had only two days off last April.

This month, they have had three scheduled days off and not played on three other days as a result of rain postponements. It's also been a cold month, helping to offset some of the physical toll on a catcher.

"I definitely think once you start sweating out, five, six, seven pounds a game, you're going to need to get some days off," Wieters said. "But more important than that is how the schedule works out, how the day/nights work out and how many off days we've had. I think it's easier to catch a day game after a night game when it's a little cooler out as opposed to going out there when it's 102 degrees and you just caught the night before."

On certain occasions last season, Oriole managers would keep Wieters' bat in the lineup as the designated hitter, but Showalter really doesn't have that luxury with only one other catcher on the roster and with Vladimir Guerrero penciled in as the starting DH.

Guerrero not looking for free pass

Guerrero's swing-at-everything style has been well documented over the years, but his aggressive approach this season has been excessive even by his standards.

Guerrero has not walked in 104 plate appearances this season. He is the first non-pitcher in team history to not have at least one walk during that time.

If he doesn't walk tonight, it will mark the first time in any month in his career, where he's played at least 10 games and hasn't drawn at least one walk.

Guerrero also is the only qualifying player in the majors without a walk this season. The standard to qualify is 3.1 plate appearances per team game. The Chicago White Sox's Brent Morel also does not have a walk in 71 plate appearances, but he doesn't qualify because Chicago has played 27 games.

Guerrero walked 35 times in 643 plate appearances for the Texas Rangers last season, including six walks in 22 games last April. He has averaged 50 walks a campaign over the previous eight seasons.

"I don't think you conventionally evaluate him whether you are a hitting coach or whatever," Showalter said. "We like the end game. It's not something we overly dwell on I don't think he's going to change his approach midstream. "

Training room updates

Showalter said that he and the athletic training staff will monitor starter Jake Arrieta's sore right hip, but he expects that the right-hander will make his next scheduled start Wednesday in Kansas City.

At the team's minor league complex in Sarasota today, Brian Matusz (strained left intercostal muscle) played long toss and did conditioning work. He'll throw a 40 to 45-pitch bullpen session Sunday. Fellow starter Justin Duchscherer (left hip strain) threw a 30-pitch live batting practice session for the first time in several weeks. He told team officials that he felt great and he'll do it again Tuesday. Shortstop J.J. Hardy (strained left oblique) hit off a tee, took groundballs and continues to progress in his rehab program.

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