Matt Wieters caught 126 games in 2010, 132 in 2011 and 134 last year.
How many could he catch this season?
“I plan on catching 162,” he said, “but I don’t think Buck (Showalter) will let me do that.”
Probably not, but perhaps Wieters will get a little more rest and reverse his workload trend with a full healthy season from backup Taylor Teagarden.
“It’s something to where you’re going to have to re-evaluate how your body feels,” Wieters said, “but I feel great going into this year.”
He always does, which is fortunate for the Orioles, who can’t afford to lose him.
Wieters is part of another individual trend. He’s made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove the past two seasons. However, he needs to improve on his .249 average from last season.
Wieters received a significant raise this winter, going from $500,000 to $5.5 million after batting .249/.329/.435 with 27 doubles, 23 homers and 83 RBIs. He set career highs in games played (144), at-bats (526), home runs, RBIs and walks (60). He also led American League catchers in games caught and putouts (994), ranked second in caught stealing (32) and third in caught-stealing percentage (38.6).
As always, Wieters saved his best for last, batting .296/.389/.541 with six homers and 18 RBIs in his final 27 games. The guy gets stronger as the season progresses.
But enough about him. How about those Orioles, and the fact that the team looks pretty much the same as it did last year, minus Mark Reynolds, Robert Andino and perhaps Joe Saunders?
“We were comfortable with our team last year and we love the guys we have on this team, and we would have kept the team the same if we could have,” Wieters said. “It’s something where you don’t want to add a guy just to add a guy. You’ve got to add a guy who’s going to be the right fit, because the big thing was we loved our clubhouse and you don’t want to add a guy who might not help that out.
“I’m excited. We’ve got a lot of guys back, and the big thing I’m excited about is, the chemistry we had last year, we feel like we can keep it going in 2013. We view last year as a starting point and we want to keep improving off that, and that’s where we set the bar for us. Hopefully, everyone comes back ready to go and we can improve on that.”
What about the heightened expectations after the organization’s first winning season and playoff berth in 15 years?
“You want the high expectations,” Wieters said. “Nobody wants to be expected to finish at the bottom of their division. You want the high expectations. We had high expectations for ourselves last year, too. That’s the thing as a team we tried to live up to. It’s not what everybody else thought, but what we knew we could do in our clubhouse.
“There are a lot of things about a baseball season over 162 games where not everything is going to go right for you. The thing is, we probably played the toughest games out of any team in baseball last year and I feel like that’s mental toughness we can continue to improve on and take our experience from last year and help us this year a lot.”
Wieters isn’t worried about the improvements made in Toronto and Boston. None of the Orioles seem to be losing sleep over it.
“Every team that we played in the AL East last year had a good team and we went out there and played the games,” Wieters said. “We feel confident that we can win every game we go out and play. You look at teams that bolster their lineups every year, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically in the postseason. You’ve still got to play the games and you’ve got to compete.”
Note: The Jason Kubel rumors were silenced this morning when the Diamondbacks traded outfielder Justin Upton to the Braves as part of a seven-player deal. It’s expected to become official on Monday.
The Diamondbacks will hold onto Kubel rather than try to convince the Orioles to part with some young pitcher to acquire him.
Kubel can be added to the list of players deemed a good “fit” for the Orioles by rival executives and the national media.