A rash of elbow injuries have been sweeping through the pitching rotations all across Major League baseball throughout Spring Training. One common misconception is that only pitchers undergo Tommy John surgery. While it is far less common for a position player to go through with Tommy John surgery, it does happen.
Matt Wieters is in the process of battling back from Tommy John surgery. The Orioles All-Star catcher made his Spring Training debut behind the plate yesterday against the Twins and logged six innings behind the dish in the Orioles’ loss. It seemed to be a step in the right direction for Wieters who had been making progress in his throwing all spring. Now, CBS Sports is reporting that Wieters will be held out of catching duties for at least ten days as he deals with elbow tendinitis.
— CBS Sports MLB (@CBSSportsMLB) March 18, 2015
Wieters felt discomfort in his throwing elbow on his tosses back to the mound, citing minor aches on roughly 25% of his throws. The decision to shut Wieters down was made after consulting with Dr. James Andrews who has certainly been a busy man of late. The Orioles may continue using Wieters as the designated hitter as Spring Training draws to a close. Getting his bat up to speed is a growing concern as Wieters has yet to register a hit through 23 Spring Training at-bats.
Manager Buck Showalter told reporters that Opening Day is still not out of the question for Wieters, but added that if Wieters is not able to catch, he will likely not start the season on the active roster. The Orioles appear set at designated hitter even without Wieters in the lineup. Placing Wieters on the disabled list or in extended Spring Training as he continues to rehab his elbow would allow the team to continue to carry two catchers. Caleb Joseph showed flashes of potential filling in for Wieters in his first big league season last year. If Wieters is a no-go to start the season, Steve Clevenger should claim the roster spot.
The Orioles and Wieters are making the right decision in proceeding with caution. The road to recovery from Tommy John surgery for a catcher is quite different than that of a pitcher. Results have been mixed, and Wieters is most valuable to the Orioles behind the dish. Wieters represents a huge premium in terms of offensive production when compared to the average MLB catcher, but if shifted into a designated hitter role, his numbers begin to look a bit more pedestrian. Taking the necessary rest early in the season should pay off in the long run, and allow the Orioles All-Star to resume his position among the best offensive catchers in the American League.