In his first 2015 game, catcher impresses with two hits, two RBIs
By August Fagerstrom
CLEVELAND -- After 390 days on the shelf, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters came back with a bang.
Or, perhaps, "crack" is the more appropriate onomatopoeia. Like the crack of the bat when Wieters slugged an opposite-field double off the left-field wall at Progressive Field to put the Orioles on the board in the fourth inning of Friday's 5-2 series-opener victory.
Two innings later, another crack sounded off Wieters' bat when he notched another hit, sending a 2-1 pitch into right field for a single. It happened again in the eighth inning, when he brought home an insurance run in Adam Jones with a sacrifice fly to center field.
"We didn't need Matt to have a good game to remind us what he was capable of," manager Buck Showalter said. "I'm just glad for him and his family to feel good about tonight. It's been a long journey for him -- and he's still slightly ahead of schedule if you go by the normal stuff -- so we'll be cautious with him. He had a great game behind the plate, too. He caught some balls that not many people catch."
For starting pitcher Chris Tillman -- and many others on the Orioles' staff -- the return of Wieters brings a sense of familiarity back to the team. Of course, the rotation has grown accustomed to backups Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger over the past year, but Wieters has been catching Tillman, and others, since 2009.
"All our catchers have been doing good, but it's nice to have him back," Tillman said.
At the plate, Wieters, a switch-hitter, batted only from the left-hand side and looked good while doing so. The injury, which was to his right elbow, hasn't affected him more from one side of the plate as opposed to the other, he says.
"Swinging was always OK because when I had the surgery and I started my normal swing in the offseason, I was cleared to swing," Wieters said. "That was never a problem. It was just a matter of getting the confidence to cut it loose without trying to cut it loose."
Behind the plate, 13 different baserunners reached base, 10 of which came with Tillman on the mound. Tillman is one of the game's most effective pitchers at holding runners on base, so nobody attempted a steal. But surely, Wieters must be itching for somebody to run on him to test out that reconstructed right elbow.
"No, because that means somebody's on base," Wieters said with a smile. "I'm itching for our guys to get as many guys out as possible. I feel comfortable and confident that when it happens, I'll be able to make as good of a throw that I can make."
In his absence, Wieters missed the hits, sure. He missed squatting behind the plate. But above all else, he missed the end of the games, when he could look up at the scoreboard and see his Orioles with more runs than their opponent.
"It was nice to get the first win out of the way," Wieters said. "That's what you miss the most. You don't miss individual hits, individual things as much as you miss getting to go through the line and shake hands after the game."
August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.