WASHINGTON — Matt Wieters signed with the Washington Nationals after the start of Spring Training, giving him an extremely condensed timeline to learn his new staff.
No amount of film study could replace working with Max Scherzer, who missed several weeks of Spring Training with a hand injury that put him on a separate timeline.
That lack of rapport was on display Wednesday night, when Scherzer was charged with a rare loss, throwing three wild pitches in the process. After the game, the reigning National League Cy Young took the blame for the loss, citing a lack of control over his changeup.
Wieters and Nats manager Dusty Baker shifted the focus to the receiving end of the battery.
“We’re still in the process of learning about him,” Baker said of Wieters. “And he’s still in the process of learning our pitching staff, especially our relievers. Because there’s a lot of guys he only caught once or twice if that.
“So no, he hasn’t caught up yet. He’s still a little bit behind. His best days are yet to come, and ours, too.”
Wieters was a two-time Gold Glove winner in Baltimore, working with a pitching staff far less heralded than the Nats’. While he waits to adjust to his new battery-mates, he has ripped National League pitching, sporting a slash line of .370/.485/.630. On Tuesday, he belted his first home run with the Nats, padding his team’s 3-2 lead:
Part of the advantage of having Wieters in a deep lineup allows him to hit lower in the lineup instead of the middle, where he batted for much of his time in Baltimore. As Federal Baseball noted, Wieters went 7 for 15 and hit three home runs when batting eighth last year, and is off to another fast start in D.C.
Meanwhile, Wilson Ramos, whom Wieters replaced in D.C., will not be available to the Tampa Bay Rays until June 1, at the earliest. Ramos is still recovering from the ACL injury that ended his season prematurely but late in the 2016 campaign with the Nats.