Matt Wieters on catching today and his future (O’s win 9-4)

Matt Wieters felt it was important today to catch the final game of the 2015 season. Catch what could be the final game of his Orioles career.

No matter the circumstances, no matter his physical condition, he wanted to be behind the plate. He had to be behind the plate.

Wieters comes across today as both motivated and melancholy.

“Yeah, I wanted to catch today,” Wieters said while surrounded by reporters at his locker. “No matter what happened the last few weeks, I was going to do whatever I had to to catch today and play, hopefully not, but maybe the last game on the home side.”

wieters-happy-walk-off-white-sidebar.jpgThat’s life as a pending free agent, one of six on the team, a guy who was drafted and developed in the organization.

Would Wieters consider his ties to Baltimore while deciding on his future?

“I won’t know until I go through the process,” he said. “I’ll do a lot of prayer and hopefully God will lead me to where he wants me to be and then I know that will be the right one.

“On top of that, there is nothing but fond memories that I have from my time here in Baltimore. I love this city and I love this team and I love this clubhouse more than anything.”

It’s been a difficult last few weeks for Wieters, his club falling out of playoff contention as he contemplated life in a different uniform.

“Everywhere I’ve turned, I’ve had a great memory or a great feeling about what I’ve gone through,” he said. “After the game today it’s going to be sad, it’s going to be emotional, but at the same time I want to remember all the good times that I did have here.”

Wieters was told that he sounded like a guy who didn’t expect to be back.

“I speak like a guy who doesn’t know what’s going to happen this offseason, and it’s the first time that I will have gone through that,” he replied. “It’s new for that. All you can do is really embrace it and take it for what it is.”

Wieters figured to be lined up for a huge multi-year deal, but his elbow surgery and a schedule that mostly kept him from catching on back-to-back days has made it more challenging to gauge this market value.

“I think that’s probably a test every free agent goes through,” he said. “They run you through a battery of tests. But I’m confident once I get home and get back to a normal offseason that I’m going to feel great for next year. I’m actually looking forward to a normal offseason and not having to do rehab after rehab for the whole offseason.”

Manager Buck Showalter predicts that Wieters will take on a much heavier workload next season, no matter where he’s playing.

“If you go back through the history of these injuries, Matt has done as well if not better than you could’ve expected,” Showalter said. “I have a lot of confidence he’s going to be back catching 120, 130 games next year if he wants to.

“I think he’s been very, he’s pushed it to the point where he didn’t put it in jeopardy or put us in jeopardy from a competition standpoint. I would have signed up for what we got out of Matt his year when we were originally going to do the surgery. He’s such a contributor in the locker room and the dugout. To understand the full text of what he brings, it takes a lot more than analytics. He doesn’t take a back seat to many there. He’s always wanting to improve. He doesn’t have it all figured out. He’s very receptive to new things. Has got a pure heart about it.”

As for writing Wieters’ name into the lineup today, Showalter knew in advance that it was going to happen.

“We had it mapped out when we got off the road trip to see if he was thinking the same thing I was,” Showalter said. “I think it’s important for Matt to be back there regardless because he knows he’s a contributor and a guy we count on and will again today.”

Wieters isn’t upset that the Orioles failed to sign any of their pending free agents before the season ended. They traveled a different road in the past with center fielder Adam Jones and shortstop J.J. Hardy.

“I try not to read anything into it,” Wieters said. “I like the baseball aspect of it, just being able to go out and play baseball. That’s what we hire agents for and what we have front offices for, so they can deal with the numbers and finding what they feel is the right fit for people. But as far as trying to say what should have been done and what shouldn’t be done, I wouldn’t do that. I enjoy going out on the field every day and playing with these guys. That’s all I can ask for.”

Losing Wieters would just broaden the Orioles’ offseason plans unless they intend to fill his absence with in-house players. Either way, there’s work to be done after the club failed to post a winning record and return to the playoffs.

“You know, every year is different and I don’t think you can put your finger on one thing,” Wieters said. “As a team, we competed and grinded every day, but in the end we didn’t pitch well enough and we didn’t hit well enough. Defense was probably the one thing that for the most part was steady all year, but to be able to get where you want to be in this division you’re going to have to pitch better and you’re going to have to hit better.

“There were times where we just couldn’t get the timely hit and times where it seemed like everything kind of fell against us, but each year is going to be different. I will say that everybody in this clubhouse grinded it out for the whole year and we’ll do the same thing today.”

Significant improvements in the rotation and lineup won’t come cheaply. It’s a matter of how much the Orioles are willing to spend - and not just on their own players.

“We’ll see what happens,” Wieters said. “I know all of us that are getting to test the open market this year love Baltimore and love the fans and would love to hopefully be back, but it’s somethere where it’s the first time in our careers that we have the choice to see where we think is the best fit for us. It will be a new experience for me and something that I’m just kind of going to take in and see how it goes.

“When you have some of the young players and some of the veterans we have in here, it sets up for success. When you have young players like Manny (Machado) and (Jonathan) Schoop and you’ve got a back end of the bullpen with (Zach) Britton and you have (Chris) Tillman leading the staff, you have pieces in place that you can build on.

“Just being here for the last seven years, it’s a great clubhouse and it’s a great group of guys who want to win for each other. In this game where there’s so much money and things involved, it’s something special when you know that the guy next to you is going to give everything for you.”

Note: A second X-ray on Schoop’s right hand also came back clean. Showalter said Schoop and Jones are available today in some capacity.

Update: It’s a pending free agent frenzy. Gerardo Parra singled with one out in the first inning - his eighth hit in the last four games - Chris Davis doubled and Wieters delivered a two-run single for a 2-0 lead.

Update II: The Yankees scored a run in the top of the second on Greg Bird’s leadoff double and two ground outs, with Dustin Ackley getting the RBI.

Update III: J.J. Hardy singled to score Wieters, who led off the fourth with a double, and give the Orioles a 3-1 lead. Wieters is 12-for-24 in his last eight games.

Parra had a two-run single with two outs after Ryan Flaherty doubled on a ball that kicked off the front of the mound and rolled past Ackley and Nolan Reimold was walked intentionally.

Parra is 9-for-16 with five RBIs in his last four games.

Update IV: Davis hit a two-run homer to left field in the fifth inning to increase the lead to 7-1. That’s his 46th home run this season.

Update V: Tillman was removed with one out in the sixth after Didi Gregorius’ RBI triple. T.J. McFarland got the last two outs. He’s pitching for the third time in four days.

Update VI: The Yankees scored twice in the seventh, both runs charged to McFarland after he allowed three straight singles and Brad Brach replaced him. Orioles 7, Yankees 4

Update VII: The Orioles defeat the Yankees 9-4 to clinch third place and their second .500 season in club history, the other coming in 1957. They end the season with five straight victories.

Davis homered again in the eighth, a two-run shot that raised his season total to 47 - the fourth-highest in club history.

Zach Britton recorded his 37th save.

Chris Tillman goes 11-11 with a 4.99 ERA.


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