Washington Nationals: Matt Wieters Slow Start Is Fine
By Ron Juckett
Matt Wieters, the newest starting player for the Washington Nationals, has struggled at the plate. Here is why you should not worry.
Newly minted Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters has had a rough spring at the plate. And that is okay.
Since signing with the Nats on February 24, it has not gone well on offense. As of Friday night, the $10 million catcher is 2-for-20 without a home run or RBI. Again, nothing to worry about. Really.
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Wieters signed 10 days after pitchers and catchers reported to West Palm Beach, hours before the Grapefruit League started the 2017 campaign. Learning how to work within a new league, organization and pitching staff is more important.
The key for Wieters is how he handles his new pitching buddies. Max Scherzer did not pitch a regular game until this week. Tanner Roark, Oliver Perez and Enny Romero missed time playing in the World Baseball Classic and Stephen Strasburg uses a new delivery.
Hitting is the least of Wieters concerns. Around two weeks behind—and losing plate appearances to Derek Norris as the Nats figured what was best for him—Wieters has not found a comfortable groove.
What he has done is learn his new staff, except Roark, while working on his pitch framing skills. The arm is there to throw out runners. The rest of his game has a week to adjust.
As with Daniel Murphy’s lack of playing time at the WBC, the 20 at-bats for Wieters is low for an everyday starter nearing the end of March. Brian Goodwin, for instance, has 42 as of Friday night. Bryce Harper has 45 while Wilmer Difo is on 44.
There is a reason catchers report to camp early. It takes longer to reach playing shape. For Wieters, it is early March in his preparations.
Expect, as we wind up our time in Florida, for Wieters to carry the bulk of the playing time. As we get closer and closer to the real thing, it is important for starters to lay a full nine and swing the bat four or five times.
Yes, there is a couple roster battles playing out, but none involve catching. Jose Lobaton will back up and Pedro Severino gets to enjoy the fine city of Syracuse this April. The job, no matter how slow, is Wieters.
As a veteran, the rest of his game will come together soon. Even if the first week north in DC and Philadelphia are awkward, as long as Wieters and the pitchers are on the same page, everything is fine.
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Remember, it is a contract year for him. Wieters will opt-out with a solid effort. We will take the wins while he wants to show baseball he is worth the multi-year contract. A fair trade.