Washington Nationals: Matt Wieters plays into shape


Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters had a rough winter. He hopes shedding a few pounds puts the focus back on his abilities.

A running joke among writers every spring is how many “best shape of my life” stories can get pounded out. In Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters case, it carries a ring of truth.

Through diet and lifestyle choices, Wieters dropped 14 pounds from last October. At 238 and the end of 2017, the catcher reported to West Palm Beach, according to MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.

Wieters told him last Wednesday:

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"“I feel as good health-wise as I’ve ever felt going into Spring Training. You can never know if it translates to results or not, but I’m just glad I felt better this offseason and feel better this spring than I did last spring.”"

Whether he needed to drop the weight, fatigue played a huge part of Wieters plunging offense last year. By the time the playoffs rolled around, he became an automatic out.

With what was expected last spring to be an easy opt-out in his two-year contract, Wieters realized he was not getting over $10.5 million a year on the open market. So, he stayed and then read about how the Nats needed a catcher and tried to grab J.T. Realmuto from the Miami Marlins.

Job security is a powerful motivator.

Making his 2018 spring debut Sunday, Wieters weight loss was obvious. For a catcher, he looked thin. His uniform hung off him in the breeze.

However, the early returns speak for themselves. A moon shot off the Houston Astros offices to left and a single. Yes, spring results and $3 get you a small coffee and a pastry or a ride on the Metro. After a few months of negatives, the positives are a sweet bonus.

Wieters workload is a major concern for Dave Martinez and the Nats. A hot April cooled off in the summer last year before Wieters’ batt found a deep freeze. His game calling and in-game coaching abilities are invaluable. Balancing those is a juggling act.

But, by dropping weight and getting ahead of the problem, Wieters hopes to rebuild his durability and turn a perceived problem into an asset. Still 31, he has productive years left.

Those may not come as a catcher, but Wieters is too young to be in free-fall decline. If he maintains his frame and strength, he might handle the 120 games behind the plate without repeating 2017’s struggle.

Forget this is a contract year for him, Wieters is playing for pride. A long winter reading about bad skills and trading for your replacement does that.

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Washington needs him. Wieters needs them. A win-win.