A lot of times before a game, Matt Wieters will watch video of a pitcher to see what he can expect in batting against the pitcher that night. Today, the Orioles catcher watched tape of Joe Saunders because he will catch him for the first time tonight as Saunders makes his Orioles debut against Chicago.
“I did (watch video of Saunders),” Wieters said. “I think maybe I have three at-bats off him, so you can’t get a good read off that. So I just went back to watch his last game or two to get a feel for what his ball moves like and what side of the plate he likes to throw certain pitches.
“I’ll talk with him and go over the gameplan of what he likes to do and certain pitches he likes to throw in certain counts. Then you go to the bullpen (for the pregame warmup) and just kind of read his stuff. First game catching someone you are just making suggestions for what you feel (he should throw) like you are doing anytime, but especially a first game that is a time when they will shake you off as you get a feel for what they are comfortable with.”
Saunders went 6-10 with a 4.22 ERA in 21 starts with Arizona before Sunday’s trade. The Falls Church, Virginia native, who grew up an O’s fan watching games at Camden Yards, has recorded 14 quality starts this year.
Wieters said he almost always catches that night’s starter during his pregame warmup in the O’s bullpen.
“I do,” he said. “One, it gets me loose and, two, it lets me judge a little bit which pitches might be working for him on a certain night. Some guys, though, can have not a great bullpen and then be lights out in the game, but you can get some information on which pitches feel and look good.”
So with Saunders moving back to the American League tonight for the first time since 2010, I asked Wieters if the left-hander would be more or less likely to pitch to the scouting report for this game.
“I wouldn’t say more,” he said. “You know he’s got stuff that will be new to this team. But you always want to pitch more to a pitcher’s strength than a scouting report, but we’ll try and match up some strengths and weaknesses.”
Saunders did pitch to an ERA of 5.80 this year in Diamondbacks home games and to an ERA of 2.92 on the road.
His last two starts were two of his worst on the season as he gave up 19 hits and 14 runs over 9 2/3 innings to the Cards and Marlins. But Saunders has allowed two earned runs or less in 11 of 21 starts.
Rough first for Joe: Chicago scored four runs on four hits in the first off Saunders. He needed 31 pitches to get his first three O’s outs. The White Sox had scored just three runs combined in the first two games of the series.
O’s starters had allowed just six runs (five earned) over the last four games combined. Now the O’s have to play from behind tonight although they did overcome 5-0 deficits in the first inning to win on July 31 and August 19.