Notes: Wieters goes to Minors camp
Orioles believe catcher has ability to move up quickly
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles made their first cuts of the exhibition season Friday when they sent top prospect Matt Wieters and four other players to the team's Minor League complex in Sarasota. Wieters, the fifth-overall pick in last June's First-Year Player Draft, said he enjoyed his brief time spent playing with the parent club.
"Getting a taste of it is like having an appetizer with no dinner. You want to get that main course now," he said Friday before the Orioles beat a Red Sox split-squad, 12-2. "You learn so much just being around these guys and getting the experience of a big league camp. It's just good to come in and get your first experience. I've learned so much here in the last three or four weeks."
Wieters, a catcher, was joined by right-handed pitchers Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio, Ryan Keefer and Esteban Yan, and all of them will work out with the team's Minor Leaguers in preparation for their upcoming season. Mickolio and Tillman arrived in the offseason trade for southpaw starter Erik Bedard, while Yan was a free-agent signing this winter.
The Orioles were most concerned with Wieters, who signed too late last summer to play in any organized full-season league. Baltimore expects the switch-hitting backstop to start at Class A Frederick and to move up to Double-A Bowie at some point during the year, and many analysts have tabbed him to make his big league debut as soon as 2009.
"I think he's anxious to go over there to Sarasota and get started," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "It will be different for him. He's never been to a Minor League camp and there will be a lot of people around, but I think he'll be fine. When I said earlier that I don't think he'll be in the Minor Leagues for long, I don't think [that means] six weeks or something.
"I just don't think he's the kind of guy that would have to be a level-by-level-by-level guy. I think he's got enough that he might not have to do that. He looks like a pretty good player."
Wieters said he will set some personal statistical goals this season, but he's more interested in learning how to get through the professional grind. He said he'd like to rack up as many at-bats as he can, regardless of where he gets them. When asked about his own timetable, he said he just wants to continue to do the same things that got him here.
"It's the same thing," he said. "You've got to keep working hard even when you get here. You can't just say, 'I'm here.' You've got to always be working hard to get better. It doesn't matter if you're a rookie or a 15-year veteran."
On the mend: Freddie Bynum's MRI test revealed a torn meniscus in his right knee, an injury that could require arthroscopic surgery and a three-week stint on the sidelines. Bynum is trying to avoid that for now, but he admitted that he's not sure exactly how much strain his damaged joint can take.
The utility man was able to hit, field and run without pain Friday, but he's waiting to see how it will feel Saturday.
"I'm trying to test it right now to see where I'm at, so I don't know right now," he said. "[Friday] was my first day doing anything. I'm still clueless. I don't know it's going to feel tomorrow, so I just have to wait and see."
"I think after the weekend, he'll probably have to come to some kind of decision because we expect to get him out on the field tomorrow and have a full workout," added Trembley. "Let him take ground balls, let him run the bases, and then on Sunday -- when he comes in see how it is -- see how it feels.
"I'm not speaking for Freddie, but I'm sure if it bothers him he's going to have to go the route of getting it scoped."
Contingencies: Trembley admitted Friday that he'd been "counting on" having a healthy Troy Patton this season, and he said that Hayden Penn may be next in line after news broke that Patton will need season-ending surgery on his left shoulder. Penn, who's missed two other opportunities because of injury, may finally be ready.
"His command and movement on his fastball has been better than what we saw last year," said Trembley. "To his credit, he's finally healthy, and let's hope that continues."
Trembley said Penn fits with Matt Albers and Brian Burres as pitchers that could help as either a starter or a long reliever. The manager also said he'd like to carry two long men this year, which gives them all plenty of opportunity to stick.
"If Albers and Burres are the long guys, that opens up a slot basically between [Penn] and a couple of other guys to be the fifth starter," he said. "We need, in the next two times that he pitches, to stretch him out -- get him up there and see what we got. But I like the movement on his fastball. He's had some life on it."
Quotable "It just tightened. He wanted to play [Friday] and I told him no. He'll play [Saturday]." -- Trembley, on center fielder Adam Jones and his back injury
Up next: The Orioles will host the split-squad Mets on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, and Burres will get the start in the 1:05 p.m. ET game. George Sherrill, Albers and hard-throwing reliever Dennis Sarfate are expected to pitch for Baltimore.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.