Wi­eters’ fo­cus on post­sea­son, not free agency

Ori­oles will wait un­til to­day to an­nounce starter for Tues­day

Baltimore Sun - - ORIOLES - By Ed­uardo A. Encina eencina@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Ed­dieInTheYard

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.

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