Matt Wieters appeared in the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse late Sunday morning not looking like someone who had undergone major hamstring surgery three days earlier. The only evidence of a procedure was a small white patch behind his left knee. He wasn’t on crutches. He wasn’t even walking with a limp.
That’s because Wieters didn’t have major surgery, at least not the usual major hamstring surgery, which was the assumption easily made when the Nationals unexpectedly announced Thursday that he had undergone surgery to “repair” the hamstring. Instead, according to Wieters, he didn’t tear the hamstring muscle. He tore the smallest tendon that connects the muscle to the knee, a relatively insignificant tendon that is often used as grafts for Tommy John and anterior cruciate ligament procedures. The surgery, performed in Fort Worth, was to remove it.
It was, all things considered, a positive outcome for Wieters, who pulled up lame rounding first base May 11. The catcher is expected to return this season, possibly in as little as two months. It’s not an insignificant amount of time, but it beats the alternative.
“They said surgery went well so I think our original plan, like a normal hamstring, would be a six-week-type thing,” Wieters said. “It’s kind of let the incision heal and let them figure it out after that. The incision will be there for 10 to 14 days and after those come out we can kind of really see how the hamstring will respond once we get those 10 to 14 days out of the way.”
Wieters, who turns 32 Monday, is batting .231 with a .727 OPS in 23 games this season. Those aren’t standout numbers, but they’re better than his production last season and most of his value lies in his work with the pitching staff. Pitchers often laud Wieters for his preparation, intelligence and his game-calling. He’s a veteran who has used his limited time with the Nationals to build a rapport with Washington’s starting rotation and established relievers. When asked how the injury will affect his catching duties, Wieters said it shouldn’t.
“They said the squatting and catching part of it will probably be the easiest part of it,” Wieters said. “Normally running comes along a little bit slower for guys, but it’s not really my strong suit anyways. So hopefully we’ll be okay there.”
The Nationals won’t have a veteran presence behind the plate for a while unless they acquire one. In the meantime, they’ll have Pedro Severino and Spencer Kieboom, who recorded his first career big league hit Saturday, splitting the catching duties. Severino will shoulder the bulk of the load, which represents an opportunity to convince the organization he is, at 24 years old, capable of assuming everyday duties.
Beyond that, the depth is thin. Tuffy Gosewisch and Jake Lowery are the catchers with Class AAA Syracuse. Gosewisch owns a .190 career batting average and .499 career OPS in 137 career major league games. Lowery has appeared in three games above Class AA. Raudy Read is serving an 80-game ban for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs and is ineligible for the postseason. Miguel Montero was designated for assignment over a month ago because of poor performance. Jhonatan Solano is on the 60-day disabled list with an elbow injury and isn’t eligible to return until mid-June.
Perhaps the Nationals will decide an acquisition is necessary not only to offset Wieters’s loss, but to bolster a roster with six projected regulars on the disabled list. For now, they know Wieters will return this season and that’s better than initially feared.
Max Muncy 1B
Cody Bellinger CF
Justin Turner 3B
Yasmani Grandal C
Matt Kemp LF
Yasiel Puig RF
Logan Forsythe 2B
Enrique Hernandez SS
Alex Wood P
Trea Turner SS
Bryce Harper RF
Anthony Rendon 3B
Mark Reynolds 1B
Matt Adams LF
Michael A. Taylor CF
Pedro Severino C
Stephen Strasburg P
Wilmer Difo 2B