Orioles' Wieters gets rare day off

Catcher sits Saturday for just fifth time this season

May 14, 2011|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — — If it were up to Matt Wieters, he'd catch 162 games in a season. That, of course, will never happen.

"I'd like to catch them all," Wieters said with a smile, "but I don't think that is physically possible."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter sat Wieters on Saturday afternoon, just the fifth time this season the 24-year-old hasn't started behind the plate.

"It's nice to get a day off, it will probably be good for the body," Wieters said. "I think rest will be good today and help me feel really strong tomorrow."

Heading into Saturday, no big league catcher has started more games than Wieters, and only Atlanta's Brian McCann and A.J. Pierzynski of the Chicago White Sox have played in more games. At 299 innings this season, Wieters had caught the most behind only McCann. That includes 12-inning and 13-inning games in the Orioles' last series against the Seattle Mariners last week.

"I don't think it matters how many games in a row you catch, but extra-inning games are going to be tougher on you than a nine-inning game for sure," Wieters said. "But it is what I love doing. Every position you are going to get beat down a little bit and catching may be even a little more than any other position."

Showalter said he keeps a careful eye on Wieters, because of the demands of continually catching in the majors.

"Catching is hard to do. … He caught those two extra-inning games. I know he gets sore," Showalter said. "What he says to me and to you and what he really internalizes are probably two different things and it's one of those decisions you almost have to take away from him."

Perhaps compounding the playing time situation is that Wieters' backup, Jake Fox, is not a traditional reserve catcher. The versatile Fox can catch if needed, but he is better suited in a utility role. A roster crunch, however, pushed Craig Tatum, Wieters' primary backup in 2010, to the minors this year.

Wieters said he'd also get a mental break from not starting, but he still watches the games carefully from the dugout and analyzes what he would do in certain situations. It's most important, he said, just to give his body a little time off.

"I feel good. We are getting into May and are starting to get into summer, so it is going to be important to get the body in peak shape," Wieters said. "I feel good, I felt better probably on April 1, but I still feel good now. "

Hardy impressed by Duchscherer

Orioles right-hander Justin Duchscherer (left hip) will pitch later this week in a three-inning stint in Sarasota as part of extended spring training rehab. At least one of his new Orioles teammates is excited to see what he can do once he gets to Baltimore.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy spent time with Duchscherer in Sarasota, and was impressed by the veteran's progress and his demeanor.

"When I got down there, he was still kind of hurting. You could tell. Any time you have injuries and you want to get back, it puts you in a bad mood. For the first week, I felt like he was in a pretty bad mood," Hardy said. "After he started feeling better, he changed as a person, he changed with everything.

"He came to the ballpark, he was happy, he was excited to get after it. Performance-wise, I stood in on a couple of his bullpens and I was real impressed with that. He hits his spots better than, I think, anybody with any of his pitches. He just kind of pinpoints."

Hardy didn't take cuts in the batter's box against Duchscherer, but he stood with a bat in his hand and watched the paths of the balls he threw.

"He never threw anything over the plate. It was always right on the black or an inch or two off. He's just good," Hardy said. "He has a really good idea on what he has to do to get hitters out. He'd be a great addition."

Duchscherer, 33, owns a 33-25 record and a 3.13 ERA in 224 major league games, but he has pitched in just five in the past two-plus seasons. Hardy thinks the extra time Duchscherer has spent in Sarasota is a plus for him as he attempts to return to the majors.

"I think that 60-day DL probably helped him in the fact that he didn't feel rushed. He knows he has a certain amount of time to get ready," Hardy said. "I'm sure he'll have to do the basic rehab assignment to get ready, but if everything goes well and he doesn't have any more setbacks, he'll be really good."

Roberts will remain in leadoff

Showalter said he is still contemplating lineup changes to jumpstart his struggling offense, but he won't be moving Brian Roberts out of the leadoff spot anytime soon. Roberts, who was mired in a 2-for-35 slump (.057 average) heading into Saturday, is really the only true leadoff man the Orioles have on their roster.

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