SARASOTA, Fla. - Manager Buck Showalter had some flattering observations about catcher Matt Wieters, who seems to be everybody's choice to have a breakout season.
"You can just tell by his face a little bit, Matt takes everything personal with the pitching staff," Showalter said. "Everybody I've talked to, and I've talked to a lot of people who have had him, whether it's minor league managers or coaches or college coaches, say that Matt was not only a good player, obviously, but probably the leader of the club.
"I think you're going to see him continue to grow as a little bit more of a vocal guy. And he does take dealing with the pitching staff very serious. You've heard me say before, he makes 100 or 200 decisions a night behind the plate and gets four at-bats. You do the math. He can impact our club every night. And when we get the offensive and defensive player he's going to be, we've got a pretty good package there.
"You can tell he's done some work in the offseason. You can see it in the body fat, you can see it in the weight, you can see it in the definition. Keep in mind this guy's playing at 24 years old. He's basically two years removed from college. I like where he is."
Wieters didn't meet the lofty expectations placed upon him last year, forcing him to face adversity for one of the very few times in his baseball life.
"I thought he handled it well," Showalter said. "Not once did you see him give in to, 'Woe is me.' You can tell he cares about bringing what he needs to bring. It didn't affect his catching at all. He's one of the best taggers that I've seen. You can see his wing span is an advantage. A lot of things he does well.
"I like him. If you're going down the list of things, catching's not one of the things I'm concerned with. He's a good one. I'm glad he's ours. I think he's only going to get better and better.
"The key for me, and what gives me a sense of confidence in him, is he's going to be as good as he's capable of being. That's it in a nutshell. That's why I don't stay up at night and worry about Matt. Whatever he is and wherever his level is, he's going to reach it, whether it's this year or next year or two weeks. And I think with some of the additions we've made, it might put him in a pretty good rocking chair."
I'd like to see Wieters pull the ball more. He's hit 20 home runs in his major league career - 15 from the left side and five from the right - and 11 of them have gone to the opposite field (including eight while batting from the left side).