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Different paths for Wieters, Reimold

Different paths for Wieters, Reimold

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BALTIMORE -- Their entrances into the Major Leagues couldn't have been any different.

One was simply another young bat in the Orioles' 2009 lineup. Just another new name on the roster -- no hype. No real expectations by anyone outside of the team clubhouse.

The other may as well been a giant block party. The announcement of his entrance came two days early. Ticket numbers for his first game increased an additional 15,000. He received a standing ovation at each plate appearance, despite the fact he would end up going 0-for-4 in his debut.

But for rookies Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters, the methods of success that helped them climb the ladder through the Minor Leagues are helping them prove themselves in the Orioles' lineup, and making sure their names are two that remain in the spotlight for a long time.

For Reimold, an injury-plagued start to his Minor League career put a stranglehold on teams that remained interested in the slugger. In 2005, Reimold led the NCAA in slugging percentage as a player at Bowling Green State University and was taken in the second round of that year's First-Year Player Draft. A foot injury in '06 and a strained oblique, which sidelined him for all but 50 games during his '07 season with Bowie, delayed Reimold's chances of earning a spot with the Orioles.

"I don't think he's ever been overlooked," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I just think he didn't get his full opportunities because he was hurt."

Wieters, on the other hand, was anything but overlooked from the first day he was taken by the Orioles in the first round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. The catcher's Major League debut was so highly anticipated by fans and scouts that general manager Andy MacPhail announced Wieters' addition to the Orioles roster two days before his debut.

Now, however, both Reimold and Wieters aren't two young prospects trying to prove their callups weren't premature. They're two mainstays in the O's lineup. Yes, they're still rookies, but each game gives them a chance to develop their skills, both at the plate and in the field.

If Reimold continues to put up his number this season, he could find himself in contention for the American League's Rookie of the Year Award. In 28 games, Reimold is batting .287 with seven home runs and 16 RBIs, the most in the AL by rookies. He has had three multiple-RBI games, including two three-RBI games this season -- success Trembley feels like Remiold's achieved by having "very good patience where he's hit."

While he seems to have found a niche at the plate, Reimold is also adjusting to left field. This season, he has started 23 games in left field, where he's accumulated 43 putouts against only one error. Despite the early success, both Reimold and Trembley recognize there's still plenty to work on.

"I still see him [tentative] with the ball in front of him," Trembley said. "He's a lot more aggressive with balls in the gaps and balls over his head. I try to tell him when he's playing, 'You have to play like there's nobody in front of you. When it's a ground ball, break really hard to get it. When there's a popup, play like there's nobody in front of you and go get it.'"

Wieters, however, has shown the prowess of a Major League catcher. Though he's played in just 12 games compared to Reimold's 28, Wieters has yet to make an error, and has 59 putouts in 95 1/3 innings this season behind the plate.

Despite a slow start in his first two series, Wieters' bat is also beginning to heat up, having increased his batting average from .182 at the end of May to .233. Though he has yet to hit a home run or knock in a run, the rookie already has four multihit games, including three successive two-hit efforts from June 9-12.

"I'm starting to feel really good at the plate," Wieters said. "I'm starting to see pitches and put some good swings on balls, and it always feels good to hit the barrel every now and again."

Two Major League players with two entirely different debuts and starts to their careers. But both have been instrumental parts in the Orioles' move toward rebuilding a championship team, and both are hoping to bring a title back to Baltimore.

And that's a finale they both hope to share.

Brian Eller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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