Wieters’ focus on postseason, not free agency
Orioles will wait until today to announce starter for Tuesday
NEW YORK — Matt Wieters said he spent too much time last year wondering what the offseason would hold, so this year, with his Orioles career again possibly coming to an the end, the club’s postseason chase became a valuable distraction.
And now, after a pair of two-run homers in back-to-back at-bats provided the offense in the Orioles’ playoff-clinching 5-2 win Sunday over the New York Yankees, the pending free agent knows he will have at least one more game in orange and black.
“I didn’t know going out of last year what the future was going to hold for me this year,” Wieters said. “I can’t imagine anything better than this right here, except for doing it after a World Series with these guys.”
Wieters, whose tenure with the club trails only Adam Jones’ among active players, has been a key piece in the Orioles’ run to the postseason. He is hitting .355 (11-for-31) with three homers and six RBIs over his past eight games.
“Matt has had that competitive edge for about 10 days,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Not that he [usually] doesn’t have it; it’s just been more. Keep in mind, he just caught a night game [followed by a] day game, and when I asked him how he was feeling, it was like, ‘Really? I’m playing.’ This guy overcame surgery. Wehadthis conversation last year. And I think when you get in times like this, you realize how much Matt means to this club and to this organization.”
Wieters has spent his entire eight-year career with the Orioles. In November, Wieters accepted a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer to remain in Baltimore rather than test the free-agent market.
Wieters said that at this time last year, he was thinking about the future, wondering whether he was playing his final days in an Orioles uniform.
“Winning is always the biggest thing to focus on, so that makes it easier,” Wieters said. “In baseball players’ minds, once you stop thinking about that one goal in general that everybody in here has as a team, it can be a dangerous place to get to. … It was harder last year because that last week or two, we weren’t in the playoffs, and I was thinking about it nonstop the last couple of weeks.”
It seems unlikely the Orioles will make Wieters another qualifying offer — the value of which will jump this offseason to $16.7 million — but Wieters still figures to be one of the top catchers available in a dry free-agent market. He finished the regular season hitting .243/.302/ .409 in 124 games, with 17 homers and 66 RBIs. Figuring out rosters: Showalter said he sat down with executive vice president Dan Duquette on Saturday to discuss 25-man rosters for the wild-card game.
Before each postseason series, all teams must submit a 25-player roster. Because the wild-card round is just one game, Showalter can stack his team with relievers, as he has to carry just one starting pitcher.
“They’re all tough” decisions, Showalter said. “That’s what’s tough this time of the year. You know everyone would love to be dealing with 25 [players] over 35 players. When you’ve got somebody who’s been with you all year and all of a sudden [you have to tell them they’re not on the playoff roster], those are like the spring training conversations. You don’t look forward to any of them. Our guys understand, but it still stings.”
Some players could end up going to the team’s spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla., to continue to work out if a replacement is needed. Others could stay with the Orioles’ travel party. Wild-card pitching: Showalter said the Orioles have a tentative starter for Tuesday’s wild-card game but will wait until today to announce him.
“I haven’t gotten that [written] in stone, but I have a pretty good feeling of which way we go,” Showalter said before Sunday’s game.
Right-hander Chris Tillman is in line to start the Orioles’ next game, but right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez would be an option because he pitched 62⁄ scoreless innings Thursday at the Rogers Centre. Around the horn: 2B Jonathan Schoop was the only Orioles player to start all 162 regular-season games. Last season, 3B Manny Machado started all 162 games. … Machado ended the regular season having reached safely in 19 of his past 20 games, batting .316 (25-for-79) with 11 runs, five doubles, five homers, nine RBIs and seven walks over that stretch. … The Orioles finished 40-36 record against the American League East and ended the regular season 39-42 on the road.