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Matt Wieters has a unique understanding of path Jackie Bradley is taking

04.11.13 at 11:57 am ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

If you’re looking for a comparison to what Jackie Bradley has gone through, and is going through, there is perhaps no better player to turn to than Matt Wieters.

Like Bradley, the Baltimore catcher was drafted out of college (in his case Georgia Tech). Like Bradley he thrived as a 22-year-old in his first professional season, hitting a combined .355 with a 1.053 OPS between Single-A and Double-A. And like Bradley, Wieters first major league spring training was impressive, with the backstop hitting .333 with a .908 OPS.

But unlike Bradley, Wieters had to wait until May for his chance at becoming a big-leaguer.

Unlike the Red Sox’ strategy with their rookie outfielder, the Orioles chose to postpone their prospect’s entrance into the majors until May 29.

“You feel like you’re ready for the next step but you always are going to know there are going to be adjustments and changes at each level you move up,” Wieters said. “I think that’s the biggest thing with a young player, that they have to come in with the confidence that they can do it, but at the same time they have to know the learning process is going to take a little while. The key is to be able to learn and work as much as you can before the game and once the game starts you have to turn it all off and let your natural ability play out.”

But did he think there was a chance to break camp with the big club back in 2009?

“It was close,” Wieters said. “It was something where I didn’t really light spring training on fire where I pushed my way on the team like Jackie did. At the same time you know it’s a possibility if everything works out you have a chance. More important than that, in spring training you’re trying to get knowledge you can use when you do get called up.”

Like Bradley, there was undoubtedly significant consideration regarding what sort of effect starting the year in the majors would have on Wieters’ service time. The difference between the two may have been the notion that, unlike the Red Sox’ outfielder, once the catcher was promoted he wouldn’t be seeing the minors again. And he didn’t.

Bradley, on the other hand, is expected to be sent back to the minors one David Ortiz is ready to return, which could come as early as late next week.

“You’re educated in (the particulars of service time) and always know there are sometimes where there are different motives behind things,” Wieters said. “For me, I hadn’t experienced Triple-A so when I got sent down it was a new level I had to experience and get better at. You want to feel like you’ve earned that promotion in the big leagues. In spring training this year he probably feels like he did enough to make this team. It’s nice to see a guy get rewarded for a good spring when they didn’t have to keep him on the team. That’s the thing, you want your baseball team to put out the best team to win right now and it’s a huge compliment when you make the team as a young guy to get that boost of confidence from your organization.”

Wieters went down to Triple-A Norfolk, got 163 plate appearances, hit five home runs with a batting average of .305 and OPS of .890. In hindsight, he classifies the almost-two-month experience as invaluable.

“I think it helped because you see a different type of pitching style,” he said. “You see a lot of veterans in Triple-A who aren’t just the guys who are throwing mid-90’s and not really knowing where it’s going. You get to see the finesse pitchers and see more guys like that, which definitely helped me when I got to the big league level.

“The way technology is now, a scouting report gets out on guys after one series. Each city you go to you’re going to see guys pitch you in a way you got out last series. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or a veteran, scouting reports get out so fast now you’re going to have to make adjustments. You can’t just hit one way anymore.”

And while Wieters explained he hasn’t necessarily digested every bit of Bradley’s story (even though the two players share the same agent in Scott Boras), he is well-aware of why the outfielder made the Red Sox. Like many in Florida, Bradley left quite a spring training impression on the catcher.

“I remember every time he played against us he put together quality at-bats,” Wieters said. “He seemed like a guy who had an advanced approach for a young hitter. He was a guy who wasn’t just trying to pull, or do one thing. He was going to try and be a professional hitter.”

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