Wieters to have Tommy John on Tuesday
The Orioles officially lost All-Star catcher Matt Wieters for the season on Monday, with the news that the switch-hitter Wieters will undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Tuesday at noon.
The procedure, performed by Dr. James Andrews in his Gulf Breeze, Fla. office, has a nine-month recovery timetable.
“His facial, body language and talking to him, we were hoping to get real lucky today,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Wieters, who had been trying to go the rest-and-rehab route. “But I think we all knew where it was headed. As much work as he and the trainers and everybody had put in, really wasn’t making a lot of progress. He had one good day throwing, it was kind of encouraging and you could see it in his face. Next day, he was sore and the soreness was pretty indicative of the UCL.”
Wieters –who was on the disabled list for just the second time in his career– last played in an Orioles game on May 10 and last caught on May 4. After five weeks of trying a throwing progression, Wieters was still experience discomfort and requested a follow-up with Andrews last week. An MRI done on Monday morning showed that Wieters’ elbow was actually a little worse than his initial visit, prompting the decision to go ahead with surgery.
Showalter said he texted with Wieters on Monday and that was the best form of communication given how emotional a phone conversation may have been.
“Matty, the night before last, he kept walking around by my office, he was one of the last guys to leave the locker room,” Showalter said. “And I knew he and I were going to have a little trouble with it, so I walked out there I said listen, ‘Neither one of us are very good at this. So I got it. Good luck. Stay in touch. Hope everything goes well.’”
The silver lining on shortening a season in which Wieters was on track to have career offensive numbers is that the Orioles are head of their July 1 deadline. That was the date the club had to make a decision on if Wieters would undergo surgery in order for him to be ready to start 2015. Having the surgery Tuesday gives them a two-week head start.
“You always try to go down the other avenue as much as you can, but we reached a point where..we felt like with this he was going to have to eventually go ahead and have it,” Showalter said of Wieters, who will have the palmaris longus tendon near the forearm replace the elbow ligament. “And when it didn’t get much better we’d like to go ahead and take care of the problem. We are fortunate in today’s sports medical world that there’s a pretty good, the risk factor is strong on his side and our side.”
Catchers recoveries are quicker than pitchers –who take about a year– but still can be longer than other position players given the repetitive nature of the job. Wieters’ current timetable would have him ready to play in games by mid-March. He will start his rehab in Atlanta, where he lives in the offseason, but Showalter said Wieters will visit Baltimore several times. The Gold Glove catcher had been traveling with the team even while on the DL.
“His presence is always here,” said Showalter, who will continue to use Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley behind the plate. “I feel real confident in the two guys we have here and the depth we had down below.”
How the injury occurred isn’t really known, but Wieters first felt some forearm discomfort on a throw down to second base during a cold April night game at Fenway Park. He missed a couple days after that, but was back in the lineup before the issue persisted and moved to his elbow. The original thought was that he could just hit, but that would have sidelined Wieters as a catching option for all of next season. Wieters hit .308 with five homers and 18 RBIs in 26 games this season and was a quiet leader in the Orioles clubhouse.
“I think his presence is still here,” Showalter said. “I don’t think that’s ever going to go away. I think the example he sets, he showed and the impact he’s had on pitchers, our guys [behind the plate] are very confident.”