SARASOTA, Fla. — Matt Wieters seemed like the perfect choice to catch for the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic, but the two-time all-star made it clear early on that he wanted to spend as much time as possible in spring camp with the Baltimore Orioles.
“I’d love to be able to play for my country,’’ Wieters said Tuesday, “but, at the same time, you have responsibilities to your team and responsibilities, for me, to the pitching staff — to be able to get to know them and go through spring training with them.”
There are all sorts of reasons for him to stay in Sarasota. Wieters caught more innings than any other catcher in the American League last year, so staying in camp allows him to build up more slowly toward the regular season.
“It’s different on a pitcher or a catcher than it is for a position player,’’ Wieters said, “because once the position player’s body is ready to go, they are good to go as opposed to pitchers and catchers. You can’t just crank it up to full speed right out of the get-go.”
Officially, he never turned down the opportunity to play in the WBC.
“It was just more preliminary talk at the beginning and I sort of let on that I was probably leaning toward just spending the whole time in spring training,’’ he explained. “It never really got to the final say.”
Two other Orioles catchers in major league camp are participating in the WBC. Allan de San Miguel (Australia) has already left for first-round games in Taiwan, and Chris Robinson (Canada) will join his team this weekend. The Canadian team begins pool play in Phoenix with the United States, Mexico and Italy.
With spring training longer because of the World Baseball Classic, the Orioles are pacing some of their pitchers a little slower.
Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Darren O’Day and Jim Johnson did not pitch through the first rotation of Grapefruit League games. Instead, they were scheduled to throw in a simulated game Tuesday morning at the Ed Smith Stadium complex while the team traveled to Bradenton for a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
High winds forced their sessions inside, and instead of facing live hitters, they pitched against batters just standing in the box.
“It was weird throwing inside the cage,” Gonzalez said. “It was hot and humid. [With] guys just tracking the ball was a little different. We wanted to face some guys on the field, but it just didn’t work today.”. . .
The Orioles’ Grapefruit League game Tuesday against the Pirates in Bradenton was rained out, as a strong band of storms pummeled Florida’s Gulf Coast throughout the day. . . .
Wednesday night’s game against the Red Sox will be broadcast on MLB Network in the Baltimore and Washington markets. . . . Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who threw off a full mound Monday for the first time in 10 months, felt good the day after. . . . Right-hander Jair Jurrjens is scheduled to start Thursday’s road game against the Minnesota Twins. He will be followed by Kevin Gausman, who will go two innings, and Tommy Hunter, who could go two or three innings.
— Baltimore Sun