Tag Archive | "Orioles"

2015 Orioles preview: Delmon Young

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2015 Orioles preview: Delmon Young

Posted on 26 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright

OF Delmon Young

Opening Day age: 29

Contract status: Will become a free agent after the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: .302/.337/.442, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 27 R, 2 SB, 255 PA

Why to be impressed: In addition to providing one of the most exciting moments in Camden Yards history in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, Young was one of the best pinch-hitters in the majors last year, going 10-for-20 during the regular season before delivering the fatal blow against Detroit. Though he’s been better against left-handed pitching in his career, Young’s .809 on-base plus slugging percentage against right-handers in 2014 could bode well for an increased role this year.

Why to be concerned: Manager Buck Showalter has spent a lot of time talking up Young’s defense in the outfield, but the defensive-minded Orioles would be wise leaving him in the primary roles of designated hitter and coming off the bench. Young’s career .742 OPS doesn’t play well as a full-time designated hitter or corner outfielder, so you wonder if an increased role this year will expose his deficiencies and prohibit him from duplicating the magic he seemed to find off the bench last year.

2015 outlook: With the departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, Young appears to be a good bet to easily surpass the 255 plate appearances he received a year ago. However, his history of struggling against right-handed pitching shouldn’t be ignored and that will impact his overall production. In 375 plate appearances, Young will hit somewhere around 10 homers while posting a decent, but unspectacular .755 OPS as the primary DH.

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Gausman going to bullpen would be shortsighted move by Orioles

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Gausman going to bullpen would be shortsighted move by Orioles

Posted on 26 March 2015 by Luke Jones

It’s no secret that Orioles manager Buck Showalter faces a predicament with his starting rotation.

The possibilities have been discussed at length with six starters vying for five spots and Ubaldo Jimenez’s contract serving as the albatross that can’t be ignored, no matter how much fans would like the Orioles to. Fortunately, the 31-year-old right-hander has shown enough progress this spring to create cautious optimism, but what that means for the starting rotation remains to be seen.

Thursday offered a glimpse at which direction the Orioles might be leaning with less than two weeks to go until Opening Day. Appearing in only his third Grapefruit League game of the spring on Thursday, right-hander Kevin Gausman pitched an inning in relief and allowed the go-ahead two-run homer by Detroit’s Victor Martinez in a 6-4 loss.

The result was of little consequence, but it was Showalter’s revelation after the game that raises concern for how the Orioles are thinking of using the 24-year-old right-hander who last season posted a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts and also owned the best fielding independent pitching mark (3.41) of any member of the rotation.

“[We] might bring Gaus back shorter until everything shakes out,” Showalter told reporters. “I want him to be ready to do both things.”

Of course, the Orioles skipper is referring to Gausman pitching in relief, a role in which he thrived in the playoffs by allowing one earned run and striking out seven in eight innings. There’s no doubting that Gausman could dominate in a relief role to help fill the void of dominant reliever Andrew Miller, who departed via free agency.

But it’s a role that’s too shortsighted for both him and the Orioles over the course of a 162-game schedule. If August or September rolls around and the 2012 first-round pick isn’t one of their best four of five starters and they need the boost in the bullpen, his power arm is a major asset in the late innings and he can let it rip with the end of the season in sight.

Before then, Gausman needs to be pitching every five days and if that can’t be in Baltimore right now, he should be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to begin the season. The Orioles want the 6-foot-3 pitcher to improve his slider — he threw a hanger to Martinez for the long home run on Thursday afternoon — and he can best do that starting for the Tides.

The truth is that a great reliever isn’t as valuable as a good starting pitcher, which Gausman proved himself to be last season. And until he shows he can’t be a good starter, the bullpen should not be Gausman’s destination so early in a season. A long relief role would provide infrequent work, and short relief is a different animal than throwing 100 pitches every five or six days and it would be obtuse to suggest one can bounce back and forth between those roles easily.

To think the Orioles will make it through the season with only five starting pitchers isn’t realistic, so what would they do if Jimenez falters or another starter gets hurt? Worse yet, what happens if both occur at the same time?

Baltimore would then be in the position of needing to turn to lower-ceiling options such as T.J. McFarland, Mike Wright, and Tyler Wilson from Triple A while trying to stretch out Gausman over the course of a few weeks. It’s a strategy that lacks efficiency and can also lead to health concerns as some opine that trying to stretch out a reliever to become a starter in the middle of a season is a significant injury risk.

Gausman has handled being yo-yoed between Baltimore and Norfolk with impressive maturity over the last two seasons, but pitchers are creatures of routine and tossing him into the bullpen at the beginning of the season is not the recipe if you want him to be an effective starter at some point this season.

Even if Gausman is one of their best five starters, I can’t fault the Orioles for trying to maximize their investment in Jimenez by giving him another shot in the rotation and if the young pitcher is the odd man out for now, so be it.

But relegating Gausman to a relief role in April isn’t the answer when looking at the big picture — in 2015 or beyond that for the promising pitcher. Showalter certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt for repeatedly showing his brilliance over the last few years, but this move wouldn’t feel right.

It might make the bullpen better for now, but such a strategy could backfire on the starting rotation for 2015. And the starting five is the key to keeping the bullpen healthy and productive over the next six months and, hopefully, beyond that.

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Wieters remaining in Florida once season begins

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Wieters remaining in Florida once season begins

Posted on 26 March 2015 by Luke Jones

It became clear last week that Matt Wieters wouldn’t be ready for Opening Day, but we learned Thursday that the Orioles catcher will remain in Florida once the regular season begins.

Speaking to reporters prior to Thursday’s spring game against the Detroit Tigers, manager Buck Showalter revealed that Wieters will return to Sarasota for extended spring training following Baltimore’s season-opening series against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. Wieters was shut down with elbow tendinitis a day after playing his first Grapefruit League game behind the plate on March 17.

Wieters continues to build strength in his right elbow after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June 17 and will be placed on the 15-day disabled list before the season begins. The Orioles had hoped that the 28-year-old would be ready for the opener, but they knew it would take perfect circumstances in order to happen.

Showalter said Wieters will play in extended spring games when he’s ready before eventually going on a rehab assignment with the combination of Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie, which would allow the catcher to be based out of the Orioles clubhouse in Baltimore each day. It remains unclear when that will happen or when he is targeting a season debut.

Though different injuries and timetables, Wieters’ situation is reminiscent of how the Orioles handled third baseman Manny Machado coming back from his first knee surgery last spring when they pointed to Opening Day as a possibility for his return before backing off over the last couple weeks of spring training. Machado eventually made his 2014 season debut on May 1.

Wieters is expected to resume throwing on Saturday and could play in a minor-league spring game next week, according to Showalter.

The three-time All-Star catcher was hitless in 23 Grapefruit League at-bats while primarily serving as a designated hitter earlier this month.

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2015 Orioles preview: Wesley Wright

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2015 Orioles preview: Wesley Wright

Posted on 25 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph

LHP Wesley Wright

Opening Day age: 30

Contract status: Will become a free agent after the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats (with Chicago): 0-3, 3.17 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 6.9 K/IP, 2 HR, 48 1/3 innings

Why to be impressed: The former Cubs pitcher has posted an ERA below 3.70 in each of the last four seasons and has averaged 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of his seven-year major league career. The southpaw held right-handed hitters to a .719 on-base plus slugging percentage last season while lefties posted an anemic .594 OPS.

Why to be concerned: Though he had no apparent drop in velocity in 2014, Wright struck out a career-low 6.9 per nine innings a year ago while his walk rate was his highest since 2011. His career 1.40 WHIP becomes even more concerning if he once again fails to strike out hitters like he did last year.

2015 outlook: The acquisition of Wright appears to have made Brian Matusz expendable in the right trade as he has enjoyed plenty of success against left-handed hitters in his career. However, Wright doesn’t have the repertoire to be able to trust him for much more than a situational role in the later innings. An ERA around 3.60 appears to be a fair target if manager Buck Showalter can be selective in using Wright mostly against lefty batters.

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Taking stock of Orioles starting rotation

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Taking stock of Orioles starting rotation

Posted on 25 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have a problem with their starting rotation less than two weeks away from Opening Day.

It’s far from the worst dilemma as many clubs don’t have two or three quality arms, let alone enjoy the luxury of choosing among six starters for five spots. It’s a good problem to have quite frankly, even if you roll your eyes thinking about the possibility of Ubaldo Jimenez taking the ball every fifth day.

Fans and critics will understandably remain skeptical, but the steady improvement of Jimenez this spring has the veteran right-hander in position to be in the rotation to begin the season. After averaging 5.5 walks per nine innings last season, Jimenez has walked just one batter in his last three outings spanning 13 innings. A new windup and a quieter delivery have led to better results for the 31-year-old with a career 4.00 ERA in nine major league seasons.

The reality is that short of a disastrous spring, Jimenez — who’s owed more than $38 million over the next three years — was always likely to at least receive a chance in the rotation to start the year. Whether he remains in the rotation for long will be the question.

Assuming Jimenez doesn’t implode over his final couple spring outings — far from a given, of course — manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette will have interesting decisions to make in how to proceed with the rest of the rotation.

If Ubaldo Jimenez makes the starting rotation, who is the odd man out and where does he end up??

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The possibility of Duquette trading one of his starting pitchers has been discussed since the start of the offseason, but the chances of needing only five starters all season is extremely remote, making that a dicey plan of attack unless the return in the trade provides a major boost elsewhere.

Chris Tillman and Wei-Yin Chen are obviously safe and both have pitched well this spring.

Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman each have a remaining minor-league option and have been discussed as the two likeliest candidates to be the odd man out to make room for Jimenez, but neither has had a poor spring.

Gonzalez has posted a 4.26 ERA and has yet to walk a batter in 12 2/3 innings of Grapefruit League action. The right-hander could be used in long relief, but you run the risk of him not being stretched out enough to rejoin the rotation if he’s in the bullpen for too long.

The Orioles have handled Gausman differently than the other starters this spring as he comes off the biggest workload of his professional career a year ago. Brought along more slowly, Gausman has pitched primarily in minor-league spring games and has logged only three Grapefruit League innings. Perhaps it’s a sign that the Orioles envision the 24-year-old beginning the season at Triple-A Norfolk despite the fact that he was one of the club’s best starters last season. It wouldn’t make sense to relegate Gausman to a bullpen role early in the year where he either wouldn’t pitch regularly or would be shortened up and used too frequently to safely return him to a starting role at some point later in the season.

Optioning Gonzalez or Gausman to the minors would give the Orioles more flexibility to potentially stash one of their two Rule 5 picks — Logan Verrett or Jason Garcia — in the bullpen, but it’s difficult to argue that being the best possible 25-man roster for a club trying to defend the American League East title.

Bud Norris might be the most interesting case of any of the Baltimore starting pitchers at the moment. The 30-year-old is out of options and is coming off arguably the best season of his career, but he has dealt with back stiffness this spring while posting a 9.26 ERA, which includes nine walks in 11 2/3 innings.

It would be crass to draw a strong conclusion from such a small sample size, but Norris’ struggles might indicate his back is a bigger problem than he’s leading on. Either way, the Orioles need to see better results from the right-hander in his final outings before the start of the season or they may need to look at his health with more scrutiny. The bullpen would also be a possibility for Norris should his woes continue over the next couple weeks and into the regular season.

So, how should the Orioles proceed if we’re to assume Jimenez begins the season with a shot in the rotation?

It isn’t the worst problem to have, but there’s no easy answer for Showalter with the season rapidly approaching. And whatever decision he makes will come while holding his breath that Jimenez’s improvement isn’t just a brief aberration.

 

 

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2015 Orioles preview: Caleb Joseph

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2015 Orioles preview: Caleb Joseph

Posted on 24 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day

C Caleb Joseph

Opening Day age: 28

Contract status: Will become a free agent after the 2020 season

Minor-league options remaining: Three

2014 stats: .207/.264/.354, 9 HR, 28 RBI, 22 R, 0 SB, 275 PA

Why to be impressed: After seven seasons in the minors, Joseph had a reputation for not being very good defensively, but he threw out 23 of 57 runners (40 percent) trying to steal when he was promoted in May to replace the injured Matt Wieters. Joseph had only 171 plate appearances in Triple A, but he showed solid power as a rookie, hitting nine homers in a 47-game span.

Why to be concerned: Joseph was hitting .236 with a respectable .697 OPS in early September before he tired down the stretch and went 0-for-30 with 13 strikeouts to close the regular season. With pitchers having seen Joseph at the major league level, he’ll need to make significant adjustments to improve on his 25.1 percent strikeout rate from a year ago.

2015 outlook: With Wieters sidelined for at least the start of the season, Joseph is expected to handle the bulk of the catching duties in his place, which could allow him to solidify his standing as the backup. If you eliminate his 1-for-26 start and 0-for-30 finish, Joseph put up some respectable numbers (.263 average) in his rookie season. Finding enough consistency to raise his average to the .240 range will be the challenge, but his track record as a hitter in the minor leagues suggests it’s a reasonable expectation along with an ability to hit a few homers in the process.

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2015 Orioles preview: Darren O’Day

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2015 Orioles preview: Darren O’Day

Posted on 23 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce

RHP Darren O’Day

Opening Day age: 32

Contract status: Will become a free agent after the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: 5-2 with four saves, 1.70 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 9.6 K/IP, 6 HR, 68 2/3 innings

Why to be impressed: The right-hander posted arguably the best season of his career in 2014 as he continued to be the heart and soul of what’s been a very good three-year run for the Baltimore bullpen. Right-handed hitters posted a .497 on-base plus slugging percentage while lefty batters owned a .633 OPS, making him an excellent option against just about anyone in the late innings.

Why to be concerned: O’Day has pitched 62 or more innings in each of the last three years, which is a gigantic workload for even a reliever with a submarine delivery that’s typically easier on the arm. Despite his terrific numbers in the regular season, O’Day wore down in September (7.00 ERA in nine innings) and allowed two home runs and four earned runs in 2 2/3 innings in the playoffs. Late in the season, O’Day struggled against left-handed hitters, which was reminiscent of his 2013 campaign in which lefties posted a .922 OPS against him.

2015 outlook: It was concerning to see O’Day struggle the way he did at the end of last season after performing at such an outstanding level for five months, making you wonder if manager Buck Showalter needs to monitor his workload more carefully. He figures to get the ball often again this year with Andrew Miller no longer a late-inning option. It would be tough for O’Day to match his 2014 numbers, but another ERA south of 2.40 is in order as long as the veteran reliever stays healthy.

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2015 Orioles preview: Steve Pearce

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2015 Orioles preview: Steve Pearce

Posted on 22 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just over two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach

OF/1B Steve Pearce

Opening Day age: 31

Contract status: Will become a free agent after the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: .293/.373/.556, 21 HR, 49 RBI, 51 R, 5 SB, 383 PA

Why to be impressed: Easily the most surprising story of the 2014 season, Pearce emerged as one of the Orioles’ best offensive players with a club-best .930 on-base plus slugging percentage and had the second-best walk rate (10.4 percent of plate appearances) behind Chris Davis. His .322 batting average on balls in play suggests Pearce experienced good fortune in 2014, but it wasn’t enough to make you think he can’t remain a productive regular in the lineup.

Why to be concerned: Pearce will be 32 in April and is coming off his first major league season in which he received more than 200 plate appearances as clubs will now have a bigger book on how to pitch to him. Though he’s always thrived against left-handed pitching in his career, his .856 OPS against right-handers in 2014 was dramatically higher than his career .700 OPS against righties, which leads you to believe there will be a substantial market correction.

2015 outlook: It’s easy to be skeptical of Pearce’s 2014 numbers after he languished for years as a fringe bench player bouncing back and forth between the majors and Triple A, but his approach at the plate makes him a decent bet to remain productive even if his numbers against right-handers return to his career norm. Manager Buck Showalter loves his work ethic and the Orioles are counting on Pearce to continue to contribute with Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz no longer in the mix. A .930 OPS in 2015 would be asking too much, but I’ll gamble on the feel-good story of 2014 posting an OPS above .800 and reaching the 20-homer mark once again in an everyday role. At the very least, his ability to draw walks will be a nice asset for a lineup that has few patient hitters.

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2015 Orioles preview: Brad Brach

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2015 Orioles preview: Brad Brach

Posted on 21 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just over two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado

RHP Brad Brach

Opening Day age: 28

Contract status: Under club control through the 2018 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: 7-1, 3.18 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 7.8 K/IP, 6 HR, 62 1/3 innings

Why to be impressed: One of the more unheralded acquisitions last winter, Brach emerged as a reliable member of the bullpen in 2014, even pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason. The right-hander averaged 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 2014 and showed the best fastball velocity of his major league career while mixing in his slider effectively.

Why to be concerned: Brach experienced some control issues in 2014, averaging 3.6 walks per nine innings pitched. Left-handed hitters posted a .776 on-base plus slugging percentage and hit four homers off Brach in 110 plate appearances last season. Opponents’ .253 batting average on balls in play indicates the former San Diego Padre experienced some good luck in his first season with Baltimore.

2015 outlook: Closer Zach Britton and others have said Brach has some of the best stuff of anyone in the bullpen, and he’ll have a few more opportunities in late-inning situations with the free-agent departure of Andrew Miller. His walk rate and fortunate BAbip are signs that Brach is unlikely to post an ERA in the low 3.00s again, but an ERA between 3.50 and 3.75 appears to be a fair projection.

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Showalter confirms Wieters expected to begin season on DL

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Showalter confirms Wieters expected to begin season on DL

Posted on 21 March 2015 by Luke Jones

What appeared probable earlier this week was made all but official by Orioles manager Buck Showalter on Saturday.

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is expected to begin the season on the 15-day disabled list after being shut down earlier this week due to elbow tendinitis. The 28-year-old made his Grapefruit League debut behind the plate on Tuesday, which marked exactly nine months after he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Wieters experienced soreness and was shut down the following morning. An X-ray on Thursday revealed no concerns and prompted no further testing on the elbow.

He would be eligible to return as early as April 11, which would fall during the Orioles’ home-opening series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Showalter confirmed that Wieters beginning the season as the club’s designated hitter was not an option since it wouldn’t help in the recovery process.

The Orioles aren’t viewing Wieters’ tendinitis as a concerning setback since it’s very common during the recovery process from ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery. Pitchers often take 12 to 14 months to fully recover from the procedure, and Wieters will still be under the 10-month mark on Opening Day.

Showalter told reporters in Sarasota that he doesn’t want the veteran catcher to feel as though he’s facing a deadline as it’s more important for him to be full healthy for as much of the season as possible rather than rushing back for the opener at less than 100 percent. It’s a similar stance to the one the Baltimore manager took with Manny Machado last spring before the third baseman eventually made his season debut on May 1, 2014.

With most attention being paid to his defense and throwing ability, Wieters is 0-for-23 with four strikeouts and one walk in seven Grapefruit League games this spring. He served as a DH in all but one of those contests.

Caleb Joseph is expected to be the starting catcher with Steve Clevenger, Ryan Lavarnway, and J.P Arencibia serving as the candidates to back him up to begin the season.

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