Matt Wieters has grown along with Orioles
BALTIMORE -- As catcher Matt Wieters grew up, so did the Baltimore Orioles.
Wieters was the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft. He suffered through some growing pains after making the majors in 2009, but he was an All-Star in 2011 and again this season.
The Orioles lost 93 games in 2011. They won 93 along with the AL wild-card game in 2012.
"It's something to where a lot of these guys in the clubhouse came up together through the system and we've been able to see each other's games sort of improve and develop," Wieters said Monday night before Game 2 of the ALDS against the Yankees at Camden Yards. "A lot of us have had to develop at the big-league level even and really be able to the last couple years pick up our game, and that's why we are where we are."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter on Monday called Wieters the "best catcher I've ever had."
Mike Stanley (Yankees, 1992-95), Damian Miller (Diamondbacks, 1999-2000), Rod Barajas (Rangers, 2005) and all the rest of the catchers Showalter has managed shouldn't feel slighted. Wieters, 26, is pretty good.
"Every once in a while, you have to remind yourself how old he is," Showalter said. "Matt is very wise, and he has a lot of confidence. I think he creates a lot of confidence because of the work he puts in, and the pitchers all know where his priorities are."
Wieters won his first Gold Glove award in 2011 and is a candidate this year. In 2012, he hit .249 with 23 homers and 83 RBIs (both career highs). He went into Monday night 0-for-8 in the Orioles' two postseason games.
Wieters is a middle-of-the-order hitter, so his offense matters. But Showalter lauded his defense, especially a scoop-and-tag Wieters made in Game 1 on Sunday night on a low throw from second baseman Robert Andino to catch Russell Martin at the plate in the seventh inning of a tie game.
"I mean, the play he made on the short hop from Robert, a lot of people I'm sure think that's easy," Showalter said. "That's a remarkable play. But fortunately, we get to see something like that every night. He made a pick of a short hop early in the game that [bench coach] John Russell and I just looked at each other and went, 'Really?' Go grab a mitt and try to do that with a catcher's mitt. He does something every night where I just kind of go, 'That's pretty special.' Best catcher I've ever had, and real lucky to have had him pass my way."
Wieters bats behind Adam Jones in the lineup. Jones, who came over from Seattle after the 2007 season, is another Oriole who has improved from prospect to All-Star. But Wieters said the two don't feel as if they have to carry the team.
"I don't think we do at all," he said. "I think that's kind of what's made this team get where it is this year, is that we know that we're going to have different guys step up every night and be able to drive in runs."