Wieters' progress bodes well for 2010
Rookie backstop happy with first season in the Majors
BALTIMORE -- Matt Wieters doesn't need a trophy to appreciate his season. Baltimore's rookie catcher was thought by many to be a preseason favorite for the Rookie of the Year Award, a campaign that was likely derailed by a slow start. Still, after a strong second half, Wieters is proud of the progress he made.
"I'm pretty satisfied and it's nice to be able to end on a strong note," said Wieters during the last week of the season. "More importantly, I got more comfortable behind the plate as far as working with the staff. And I definitely got more comfortable at throwing out baserunners, which I hope to take into next year and keep working on it."
Wieters, the fifth overall selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, joined the Orioles in May and immediately assumed the starting role. Wieters batted .259 with a .316 on-base percentage and a .407 slugging mark before the All-Star break and improved to a .301 average, a .351 on-base and a .415 slugging after the intermission.
Some of his struggles were due to an inevitable learning curve, and his success is easily explained by him getting more comfortable as the season progressed. Wieters batted .362 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in September, and the Orioles began batting him in the No. 3 slot during the final few weeks of the season.
And if you ask for his greater impression of the Majors, he'll rave about the league's pitchers.
"It's amazing all the quality arms you see," said Wieters of his rookie season. "You know you're going to see good pitching, but the high velocity and great breaking ball stuff that you see on an everyday basis is a little bit different. You'd see one or two of those guys on a staff in the Minor Leagues. The teams that we're seeing have guys that can throw in the low 90's and have good breaking stuff probably four times in five days."
Wieters said that he had barely seen hard-throwing lefties in the Minor Leagues, and his splits bear evidence of his growing pains. Wieters batted .248 with a .313 on-base percentage and a .358 slugging mark against left-handers, numbers that all pale in comparison to what he did against righties (.313/.357/.447).
The backstop said he spent even more mental energy on defense, where he had to learn a new pitching staff and learn the league's hitters at the same exact time. Wieters had spent time with some of Baltimore's pitchers in the Minor Leagues, but now he had to learn what could work for them at the next level.
"Defensively, you've got to put a little more thought into it," he said. "Offensively, you're going to go through hot streaks and cold streaks. Once you get your swing where you want it, it's just trying to get a good pitch to hit and trying not to chase pitcher's pitches. Getting a good pitch to hit is the most important part."
Wieters said he will study video this winter just to see how his at-bats changed over the course of the season, but he also said he won't critique his form too much until Spring Training. The switch-hitter is curious to see how he handled specific pitchers and specific situations, and he'll view each at-bat much like a fan would.
The 23-year-old said he'll relax for part of the winter and start ramping up his workouts right after Thanksgiving, but he also said that he was fairly pleased with the way he felt at the end of the regular season.
"The body's definitely a little more worn out than it was at the end of last year. But I still feel pretty strong," said Wieters, who won't start swinging the bat again until Christmas. "After the season, I'll take a break for about a month or so to just unwind. I try to completely do nothing for a month, and I'll start going full speed after that."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.