When Orioles catcher Matt Wieters visited Dr. James Andrews in Gulf Breeze, Florida, to look over his strained right elbow, the expectations was not optimistic. After throwing lightly for a few weeks, the elbow never seemed to get better.
So when Andrews told Wieters today that his elbow required Tommy John surgery, it came as no surprise to Wieters or the rest of the Orioles staff.
Wieters will be out for the rest of the season and could miss some of next season. The best case scenario is that Wieters gets back to hitting by Opening Day and catching by May.
The Orioles will miss Wieters, who has been one of the game’s best defense catchers since his debut in 2009. Just this season, Wieters’ bat came alive , as well, batting .308 with five home runs and 18 RBI in 26 games before being placed on the DL.
The Orioles were bracing for the worst when Wieters met with Andrews, but the confirmation will make fans wonder what the Orioles will do without their All-Star catcher. There are many options for the team to choose from, but none will replace Wieters’ production.
The Orioles made a preemptive move while Wieters was on the DL, trading relvier Troy Patton to the San Diego Padres for catcher Nick Hundley. However, Hundley has not lived up to expectations since joining the club, batting .147 with 12 strikeouts.
Another option could be Caleb Joseph, who has the fielding ability to fill in for Wieters. Joseph has caught eight baserunners stealing in 19 games since being pulled up to the Orioles. However, Joseph has had a hard time adding batting to his prowess.
Joseph is batting just .130 since joining the Orioles, a number that will make Buck Showalter cringe. If Joseph could get his bat going, though, he could be a great replacement.
Then there is Steve Clevenger, who was sent to Norfolk lieu of Joseph on May 27, has been on fire offensively since the demotion. This season in Norfolk, Clevenger has hit .434 with eight doubles and 14 RBI. This bat makes it seem like he should make the major league club, but his defense is not that of Joseph’s.
In 20 games withe Orioles, Clevenger caught three baserunners stealing and let 17 reach the next base safely. That kind of statistic is why he remains in Norfolk. However, the Orioles could certainly use his offense.
Three candidate emerge to fill the position that Wieters held for five season before. None seems ready to fill his shoes, so the idea of picking a catcher up before the deadline is not out of the question.
Will they pull the trigger on another catcher or go by committee? Given the need for pitching this year, the team may not have the resources to pick up a worthy replacement. But that’s just my opinion. Let us know what you think.