The Orioles will call up prized prospect Matt Wieters on Friday, ending one of the most closely monitored holding patterns in recent memory. Wieters, perhaps the top offensive prospect in baseball, will be promoted from Triple-A Norfolk and will assume the starting catching job immediately upon his arrival.
Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, explained the timing on Tuesday.
"He's been on quite a streak the last 10 days, and today in Norfolk he's 4-for-4 with a couple RBIs," MacPhail said. "He's made the progress. The power's starting to come and he's over .300 as we speak. It's time. He's done what he needed to do at that level. We just wanted to make sure we didn't get into a circumstance where he had to go back. We're reasonably comfortable that this is a good time for him and we're going to give it a shot."
Wieters, the fifth overall selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, gained notoriety by storming through two levels last season en route to being named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year. Baltimore still elected to start him at Norfolk, and the switch-hitter is currently batting .305 after seven weeks of action.
MacPhail has been asked about Wieters incessantly over the last two seasons, a reflection of the league-wide interest in his progress. Wieters, a highly touted amateur at Georgia Tech, signed a $6 million contract moments before the league-imposed deadline to reach an agreement or re-enter the Draft.
And ever since, MacPhail has found it hard to answer when Wieters would actually make his debut.
"You try to temper it," MacPhail said of the interest. "This is a difficult league. You've got to go through a lot of adjustments. With that excitement, you run the risk of excitement if he doesn't hit a three or four-run homer in his first game. ...We're delighted to have him here, we're comfortable with the timing and we're excited."
When Wieters arrives, he will immediately supplant Gregg Zaun as the starting catcher. He'll also give the Orioles another decision in terms of whether to keep Zaun or veteran backup Chad Moeller. Whatever the case, MacPhail said it was important to him to call up Wieters while at Camden Yards.
"It was definitely our preference," MacPhail said. "We had an idea. We just wanted [Wieters] to get a foundation of success under his belt at Triple-A, but when we did it, we definitely wanted it to be at home."
Finally, MacPhail was asked how Wieters would handle the impending media circus surrounding his arrival.
"He's had a lot of attention already," said MacPhail. "He had it in Spring Training and he's really undergone a lot of it and handled it flawlessly. Whether it's Friday, a week from Friday or whenever, he's going to have a lot of attention. He's just going to have to get through it and he's shown us that he can do it."
That attention even stretches into the clubhouse, where the Orioles are waiting to greet their soon-to-be teammate. Adam Jones, one of the team's main building blocks, said the timing is right for Wieters.
"It's going to be fun," Jones said. "We're in the big leagues. He's not. I think we're looking at it as, 'It's good he's done with the Minors.' I don't want to say he mastered the Minors, but he did what he had to do. Now he's getting the opportunity to come here. We're not thinking he's going to come here and go off, but hopefully he'll come here, hold his own and get better as time goes by."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less