Just when it looked like the Orioles were having a strong spring training in terms of few injury concerns, on came the news that catcher Matt Wieters will most likely start the year on the disabled list. So will minor league right-handed pitching prospect Hunter Harvey.
The Wieters news is not surprising, as April 17 will be when he is 10 months removed from surgery. Whatever date Wieters starts his 2015 season, the Orioles will want to feel certain he can play a full season from that point forward and that he can play, especially defensively, like the Wieters we saw pre-surgery.
For now, Caleb Joseph looks like the starting catcher and we know how well he did last year.
O’s 2014 catcher ERAs:
3.00 - Caleb Joseph
3.34 - Nick Hundley
3.88 - Matt Wieters
4.81 - Steve Clevenger
So who will back up Joseph come opening day? Brian Ward is the best defensive catcher among the rest of the candidates. If defense truly comes first here, Ward could get his chance.
Ironically, Joseph, a longtime minor league, finally got his chance when Wieters got hurt last year. Now another long-timer in the O’s minors in Ward could get a chance with Wieters out again.
I first truly became aware of Ward’s strong all-around defensive game when he was the catcher as the Single-A Frederick Keys won the 2011 Carolina League championship. Frederick had the best pitching in the league and Ward got a lot of credit for handling that staff so well that season. He seemed to make pitchers better.
It was disappointing to see the news on Harvey that was reported Sunday afternoon. A CT scan on his right fibula revealed a slight fracture and he is going to miss six to eight weeks.
He ended last year injured, but had fully come back from that flexor mass muscle strain and was pitching great in camp. His velocity was even better than last year, including a strong three innings for the Orioles. Now the O’s No. 2 prospect experiences this setback when the initial reports seemed to indicate Harvey was going to be fine.
Still, the latest news won’t hold this talented 20-year-old back too much. He clearly made a big impression at O’s camp, so much so that manager Buck Showalter was openly talking about the possibility that Harvey could be in the big leagues later this year. Yes, that is fast and impressive.
At least this was not an arm injury. This, too, will heal, and Harvey can and should still have a great 2015 season.
As you can tell by the lack of a Sarasota dateline on this story, I am back home from another fun time at spring training. The days are long and the reporters probably work a lot harder than most people realize, but no complaints at all. I got to see baseball in the sunshine and being there always gets me excited for the start of another season.
Over the next few days, I’ll plow through my tape recorder and write stories off several interviews compiled there. It was a productive time and there is plenty of material generated there still to come here.
For now, here are some leftover quotes from players I have written about, but some quotes that didn’t run in the earlier stories.
Chris Davis on whether he will bunt more this year: “Oh, absolutely. Did it a few times last year. I’m more comfortable with it going through an offseason where I know I have to add that as part of my game. But I’m not going to forget my role as a guy who drives in runs. The situation will dictate whether I bunt or not.”
Right-hander Mike Wright on possibly pitching in a bullpen role: “I’ve thought that that is probably where I would start out. Hopefully, one day I make it into the rotation, but I want to help the team. It’s very exciting to come out of the ‘pen. It’s definitely a different look, but it’s still pitching. I think I could be more consistent on my top-end velocity as opposed to a big range when I’m starting.”
Right-hander Dylan Bundy on whether he has taken note of Mets pitcher Matt Harvey’s comeback from Tommy John surgery: “Definitely, I look at what he is doing. I’d love to talk to him, but he’s in a different organization. Seems like he is doing great right now. It is all about the work you put into it.”