It is June 8, 2015, and the Baltimore Orioles have yet to play a game with the full starting lineup assembled by Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter. The team got a lot closer to full strength this weekend in Cleveland with the return of All-Star catcher Matt Wieters.
And what a return it was.
In his first three games since coming off the disabled list, Wieters hit for the cycle. Overall, he went 5-for-12 with three runs scored. His home run on Sunday afternoon, was a screaming line drive to right, while his double on Friday night, in his first at-bat, was crushed the opposite way to left. All 12 of his at bats came from the left side of the plate.
That should be taken as a positive side, as the left-handed batter’s box has not been as kind to Wieters during his major league career. The switch-hitting catcher has batted only .248/.312/.390 from the left side, versus .280/.340/.490 from the right side. The disparity between Wieters’ performance while switch-hitting had in the past prompted many to call for him to bat exclusively from the right side. Oddly enough, however, when Wieters had gotten off to a hot start in 2014 before his injury, he was batting nearly 100 points higher from the left side. Only time will tell which side of the plate will be kind to Wieters in 2015.
True to the initial plan, Wieters caught every other game this weekend. Surprisingly, he was not tested by a single Indians’ baserunner in his two games behind the plate. Wieters did have a passed ball on Friday night, but overall looked to be moving very well behind the plate. The most pressing question remains how he will handle would-be basestealers. With the Red Sox coming to Camden Yards for a three-game set this week, expect Wieters to be tested by rookie burner Mookie Betts.
Overall, Wieters’ strong return is an excellent sign moving forward for the Baltimore Orioles, and it could not have come at a better time for what was an anemic offense in May. Wieters had appeared to be turning a corner offensively in 2014 before his injury, and is back in the lineup with very little apparent rust, which is key considering his 0-for-Spring Training at the plate. Of course, it has only been three games, but Wieters’ early performance gives plenty reason for hope moving forward the rest of the season.