Wieters evolving into leader, “captain” of O’s staff
In his fourth Major League camp and entering his third season as the Orioles starting catcher, Matt Wieters finally seems comfortable with the fact that this is his pitching staff, his team. The transformation, from a reserved, hyped to-the-moon prospect into a leader not afraid to get in his starting pitcher’s face, has not gone unnoticed by those in the organization, particularly coaches and teammates.
I’ve got a full feature story on Wieters on Orioles.com, and you can click here to read it. As always with a story this long, there’s plenty of leftovers and quotes I haven’t used yet, which I have below.
One thing to point out: I purposely wanted to avoid using statistics and figures in this story because as good of a year as Wieters had, his contributions to this team far exceed what you can find on his player page. There seemed to be a common thread in talking to everyone for this story, that there’s no doubt his best is yet to come. I’ve said before that the Orioles really need strong leadership from some of their young core, and watching Wieters this spring –compared to my first camp in 2010– has truly been night and day.
Here are some leftovers….
[on Wieters growing into a leadership role] “Absolutely, I think it’s been a drastic change over the last couple years. I started with him in 2008 ‘til now, he kind of went from baby Wiet to daddy Wiet, in taking control of the reins. I’ve seen him go through that change and I think the best is probably still to come from him. He’s still young and still getting his confidence to become that captain that he’s really going to be.”
[on being lucky to have Wieters] “We are spoiled to have him back there. He controls the running game pretty much himself. We got to help him a little bit. If you get a ball by him, you did something special. You got to try to get it by him to get it by him. He can play with the best of them, I think he deserved that Gold Glove last year. I’m happy for him.”
[on Wieters] “Wieters is the captain back there behind the plate. He spends a lot of time getting to know each pitcher on an individual level and know how to reach guys in different ways to bring out the best ability in each guy. Wieters is so well respected by the entire pitching staff, we are blessed and lucky to have him back there so it’s exciting, I look forward to this season to be able to work with him again. Getting in a good grove like we had in 2010. He’s the captain of this team.”
[more of a leadership role ever season?] “Oh, sure. Yeah. Just with the experience Wieters has really stepped it up and been able to get to know his pitchers really well. It’s been, this is the fourth year now getting to work with Wiet and he really knows the guy well. Having that relationship for so long now, we are able to communicate a lot better.”
[shock you that he does all this extra work?] “It doesn’t surprise me. He’s one of the best catchers in the game for a reason. He really cares about his teammates and his pitching staff. He’s willing to put the time in and the work in to get to know us. He helps make every guy on this pitching staff better just by putting that time in, and we are real lucky to have a guy like him behind the plate.”
[Wieters transformation] “I think its more you get more comfortable, [his] first year there was a lot of expectations and things he had to fight through there and last year what his job was, what he needed to do and as he got through the first month he just started to develop to where he felt more comfortable in his surroundings. I think he’s grown a lot in that sense. Being an All Star, winning a Gold Glove, I think that just added to his confidence level. He knows how important it is to prepare, but also that all the things he does is being noticed.
[wieters as a person] “He’s the most unselfish player I’ve ever met. “[Wieters] keeps going out there every day and I think that’s what really has helped him be the kind of guy who can be more vocal. This spring he is, in talking to the catchers, talking to the pitchers. Not that he’s never done that, but I think he realizes the challenges of being the everyday catcher, that he has got responsibilities. And he knows what he has to do.”
[how is he unselfish?] “He does what’s best for the team. He knows that the pitching staff is very important and he wants to be sure that they have what they need for them, and he needs to get them through what they need to get through. And also as a teammate, he’s there for everybody. And I think that’s the most important. He doesn’t let things go to his head, the All-Star game, the Gold Glove. Obviously he’s going to like that, but it doesn’t make Matt Wieters any different in terms of growing up to be a Major League player, and a very special one in my opinion.”
[on his ceiling—can he keep getting better?] “Oh, absolutely. The thing about him, he’s never satisfied with just being good. He wants to do it the way it’s supposed to be done and when you do that, that’s when you start developing into a great player. He’s still going to continue to grow and learn and I just [think] the sky’s the limit for him. He wants to be that guy, but it’s not a cockiness. That’s the great thing about him, hes not cocky. He knows he has to work. When you prepare like he does, you work like he does, there’s no room but to get better.”
[on Wieters knowing his words carry extra weight?] “He does, and he cares about the team. He’s really focused and wants to be part of a good team. But he also has the respect, people watch him, and a lot of times guys don’t talk a lot –he leads by example. He plays so hard, and catches every night. That’s a grind. And I think players respect that, they see what he goes through and how he battles and continues to go back there day after day after day. Players respect that. It puts him in a situation where he can be more vocal and he can be one of the leaders of the team.”
[on if last year was vindication for being labeled a bust] “I don’t try to look at it that way. I try to look at it as if you pay attention to the bad things people write about you, then you have to pay attention to the good things people right about you. And when people write good things about you it’s very nice, and when people right bad things about you it’s their opinion, it’s their right. Whatever I feel about myself is what I go with and I try not to put any [stock], or draw any conclusions from people’s opinions, because no one knows yourself better than you.”
[so it’s never been something that has drive you either way?] “No. I mean yes it’s nice to make All Star teams and it’s nice to win Gold Gloves. It’s something that you know is goals of mine, but at the same time it’s really just every year it comes down to trying to get better each day and getting better each year.”
[on veteran pitcher Jeremy Guthrie’s departure] “Last year I really tried to take control of the pitching staff and Guthrie being here definitely helped to be able to work with me on things that he learned. Guthrie is going to be missed, but at the same time, I don’t think my role changes, but it might help these younger guys take the next step forward, and start feeling like, ‘We are what the team needs to be able to be successful,'” he said. “When Guthrie was going out there and giving us innings, guys could kind of just sit back and watch him, which is good for them, but now somebody’s got to take up that No. 1 job.”
[on if Wieters’ work ethic shocks him] “No. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t doing that. That’s why you like him so much, that’s his responsibility, he wants to. You bring up Wieters to [Wei-Yin] Chen and [Tsuyoshi] Wada, they know Matt’s going to try to make their job easier instead of harder. And I was telling him, he’ll lead you through it. They are excited about throwing to Wieters. I was asking what they thought about him, they were saying it was a lot bigger target than they were used to. I said, ‘That’s a big man.’
[on Wieters growing into a leadership role] “I think Matt is only going to do more and more of that. The beauty of Matt is he doesn’t force anything. It’s sincere. So far, his timing has been impeccable. With the struggles we had with our pitching staff last year, for him to win a Gold Glove was quite an accomplishment and everybody around baseball recognized that. I think we have a lot of guys that you are going to see continue to take strides of ownership that comes with having a track record.”