If there is one player on the Orioles that was tracking the pitching additions executive vice president Dan Duquette made this offseason, it was catcher Matt Wieters. He will have to catch the new pitchers and, in some cases, communicate with players that speak little or no English.
“It’s going to be a lot of work in spring training, that’s for sure,” the 25-year-old Wieters said. “Getting to know all the guys that have a chance to make the club or be up at some point during the year, it’s going to be a lot of work and a lot of communication work on top of it.
“The great thing is that baseball is a universal language. Once you can get on the same page, sort of, you can use symbols and things like that to get going. I was spoiled with Koji (Uehara). Koji was great and one of the easiest guys to work with. We’ll see how these guys come in and we’ll find a way to make it work, that’s for sure.”
Not only will Wieters have to learn about Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada, but other new pitchers on the staff that may win jobs like Darren O’Day and Dana Eveland, as well. But Wieters said he expects to have no problems developing chemistry with the new guys.
“You can build it quick,” Wieters said. “Each game you catch them and each bullpen you catch them, it gets a little better. Obviously, the more years you have with a guy, the better it’s going to be.”
Wieters said that even beyond the language barrier with Chen and Wada, he needs to learn all about all the new hurlers’ pitches and what they like to throw in key situations.
“That is the big thing - getting to see if they like to do patterns or see what pitches they like to throw in certain counts. Especially when you have a guy who might not speak the same language as you, you kind of want to know what he wants to throw. You don’t want to have a shakeoff in a big situation where you are not on the same page with what pitch to throw,” Wieters added.
Wieters is coming off a season where he made his first All-Star team and later became the first O’s catcher to ever win a Gold Glove. He hit .262 with 28 doubles, 22 homers, 68 RBIs and had a slugging percentage of .450 and OPS of .778.
Among American League catchers, he was first in runs, second in hits, doubles and homers, and third in RBIs and OPS. He hit .321 with runners in scoring position and that was the 13th-best average with RISP in the league.
He feels the Orioles are an improved club right now.
“Especially being a catcher, you can look at some of the additions we made to the pitching staff,” Wieters said. “You’re going to win with pitching in this division. It’s tough to outhit the Yankees and Red Sox. Look at Tampa - they have good starting pitching and that’s why they can compete every year. I think this year, with some of the young starters we have, now they’ll give them a little competition and hopefully make them better.”
The Orioles finished strong in 2011, going 11-6 against playoff or contending teams down the stretch. Of their last 23 games last year, 15 were decided by two runs or less and the O’s went 10-5 in those contests. Wieters thinks that gives the 2012 version of the Orioles something to build on.
“I think so. I think our lineup the second half of the year was really good. When you have a shortstop hitting 30 home runs and Reynolds hitting 40 or more, that gives you some power in the lineup,” Wieters said.
“But it really is about starting pitching. The better your starting pitching is, the more games you are going to win. We’ve been able to add some arms to the bullpen. The bullpen is getting more secure, especially with (Jim Johnson) out there. Now, it’s just getting those starters to be able to go deep in games.”