O's to send Wieters to Triple-A
Baltimore's top prospect will be reassigned on Sunday
JUPITER, Fla. -- Let the countdown begin. Matt Wieters isn't even gone yet and people are already clamoring for his return. The Orioles informed Wieters on Thursday that he'll be reassigned to the team's Minor League complex over the weekend, and Baltimore's top prospect said Friday that he looks forward to his next challenge.
"No idea," Wieters said of a timetable for his eventual promotion. "Triple-A baseball is going to be tough, so you've got to go down there and try to win games there. I don't have a timetable because it's not my call. All I can do is go out there, work hard and play. And they'll make the right decision when the time is right."
Wieters, who was named MLB.com's Minor League Player of the Year last season, will leave the Orioles on Sunday night and report to the team's Minor League complex on Monday. The top-rated catcher is expected to begin the season at Triple-A Norfolk and will likely be back with the parent club before the All-Star break.
Exactly when he'll return is a mystery, but Baltimore manager Dave Trembley was thrilled with the way Wieters conducted himself this spring. Trembley said that Wieters went out of his way to study video of hitters around the league and that he also worked overtime on integrating himself into the team.
"The most impressive thing about him is that he took the initiative on his own to get to learn each and every pitcher," said Trembley. "If you saw in the back and those bullpen sessions, he hopped right in there every time. He never left the park early. He stayed every time when he wasn't playing all nine innings. ... He was very unassuming about it. The guy just attracts attention to himself by being a baseball player and not saying a whole lot."
Wieters also attracts attention through his play. The backstop hit .345 with 15 home runs for Class A Frederick during the first half last season, and then he went on to hit .365 with 12 homers for Double-A Bowie. That performance led many to believe he's already ready to play in the Majors.
Trembley doesn't deny that perception, but the Orioles are determined to test him at Triple-A before pushing him to Camden Yards. Still, that promotion is all but an inevitability, and many analysts believe it will happen by the end of May. And whenever it happens, Trembley knows that Wieters will be ready for the call.
"He's not perfect. There's still areas for him to improve on," Trembley said. "There's still things for him to learn. He's going to learn them when he's in the big leagues. But I can say this: you don't have to tell him twice. And I think that's probably a unique quality about him. You don't have to repeat yourself. He gets it right away. The light goes on real quick with him. He's just real mature. He's real mature mentally and physically."
Wieters, the fifth overall selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, understands the team's position and maintained that he's not disappointed to head to Norfolk. On the contrary, he's excited to begin his Triple-A experience and even more enthusiastic about the way his Spring Training turned out.
"It's been huge getting to see the pitchers and getting to sit next to Chad Moeller and Gregg Zaun," he said. "Anytime you get to see this kind of competition, it's going to make you better. I was fortunate enough to get to see it a lot longer this year. I think I can take a lot more out of this year's camp than last year's camp."
The Orioles can delay Wieters' eligibility for free agency for an entire season by delaying his promotion until mid-April, and they can control his arbitration clock by leaving him down a little longer. Trembley, who often compares Wieters to Joe Mauer, looks forward to getting him as soon as possible.
"He's more comfortable. I think that's obvious," said Trembley. "I think he would readily admit that. I think that's allowed him to show the abilities that he has. I'm really impressed with his patience at the plate, his knowledge of the strike zone [and] his ability to come up with key hits -- especially with men on base.
"I think there are special guys who have a knack for doing that, and I think he's one of them."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.