Orioles' Wieters turning heads with his arm

Reliever Gregg says catcher is 'probably the best' in baseball at throwing out would-be base stealers

May 22, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

Not long after their 2-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Sunday, several Orioles stopped by the team's video room to get one more look at the game-ending play and even more confirmation of what they all are starting to believe about young catcher Matt Wieters.

"He's probably the best throwing catcher in the game right now," Orioles closer Kevin Gregg said. "I'll take my chances with anyone running on Wiets."

With pinch runner Brian Bixler on first base and one out in the ninth inning, Gregg got a called third strike on a 3-2 breaking ball to Roger Bernadina. Wieters made a perfect throw to shortstop J.J. Hardy, who tagged Bixler, ending the game and eliciting a rare fist pump by the Orioles' stoic catcher.

"That's what he's been doing this whole season, just putting good throws out there. All we do is catch it," Hardy said. "I don't know what his numbers are, but I feel like he's thrown everybody out that runs. That's pretty good."

Wieters threw out two runners Sunday and has caught 14 of 28 would-be base stealers this season.

"It seems like everything has clicked for the most part as far as just being able to keep the timing and just making sure I make a good throw," said Wieters, who threw out 21 of 74 (28 percent) runners attempting to steal last season. "One thing as a catcher, you can't worry about how good of a jump the guy has. You just have to make your throw."

Wieters deflected credit to Gregg for being quick to the plate and giving him an opportunity to throw out Bixler. However, the fact remained that the Orioles needed a near-perfect throw to get Bixler and Wieters delivered.

"That's amazing," said manager Buck Showalter, who stopped by the video room to watch a replay with several Orioles, including Nick Markakis. "The accuracy of it, I [can't] tell you how hard that is to do."

One more for Matusz?

The Orioles won't make a final decision until Tuesday, but all signs point to left-hander Brian Matusz making one more rehabilitation start rather than joining the big league rotation for his next outing.

Matusz, who hasn't pitched in the big leagues this season because of a strained left intercostal muscle, threw six scoreless innings for Double-A Bowie on Saturday, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out one. However, Matusz acknowledged to Showalter that he got away with some poor pitches and is still working off the rust.

"I had good results [Saturday]. I was able to make good pitches. I didn't have the best feel for all my stuff," Matusz said. "I didn't feel like it was coming out of my hand like I wanted it to, but I feel like I'm on track. I feel like it's real close to being where I want to be. This is a process getting ready. This is my spring training."

Matusz was a little sore after his longest outing since September, prompting the Orioles to push back his next bullpen session one day to Tuesday.

"We'll see how he feels on Tuesday," Showalter said. "I'm not saying that's not a possibility of him coming back and making his next start here. We'll see how things go Tuesday. I think we'll have a really definitive idea. He was sore today. We want to make sure he's sore in the right places on Tuesday."

In two rehab stats — his first was for Single-A Frederick — Matusz has allowed one run on five hits and three walks while striking out three over 10 innings. He also made two appearances at extended spring training.

"The minimum of innings that you'd even think about bringing a guy out of spring training is 20 innings, and I think he's at 14 or 15 now," Showalter said. "He's getting closer. I was happy with his realistic view of his outing last night, talking to him. But you don't just evaluate statistically how somebody did if it was good or bad. … It's just good that he feels good physically and he's making progress."

Rotation on hold

Showalter declined to reveal his rotation for the three-game home series against the Kansas City Royals that starts Tuesday. A big part of his reasoning was Matusz's status, but the club also will have to decide whether Brad Bergesen will make his next start. The Orioles have the option of skipping him because of Monday's day off and going with Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta and Jeremy Guthrie against the Royals.

"We haven't gotten that far," Showalter said. "When the smoke clears after today, we'll have a better idea of where we're going."

Around the horn

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