Baltimore native Steve Clevenger has spent the spring trying to make the Baltimore Orioles‘ Opening Day roster as their backup catcher. On Monday, Buck Showalter told him that he did indeed make the team.
Clevenger has never enjoyed success at the major league level, nor has he played more than 69 games in one season, but he tore up the Grapefruit League this spring. The 27-year-old is hitting .484/.529/.645 with a home run and six RBIs in 31 at-bats. Showalter has been impressed by Clevenger’s defensive play and his ability to call a good game too.
Since the beginning of Spring Training, the Orioles’ skipper has said that the backup catcher position would be won by playing solid defense, calling a good game and working well with the pitchers. Now Clevenger is tasked with replicating his performance throughout the course of the 2014 season.
Matt Wieters, the Orioles’ everyday catcher, has been overworked throughout his career, and that’s led to disappointing numbers at the plate. Wieters was thought to be the next Mike Piazza at the plate, but instead has averaged 22 home runs and 77 runs batted in while batting only .248 over the past three seasons. Part of the reason that Wieters has struggled at the plate is because he spends too much time behind it.
Since 2010 the 27-year-old has caught an average of 133 games. In comparison, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants is one of the more productive catchers at the plate in baseball and over the past two seasons, and he’s caught an average of only 117 games. If Clevenger produces adequately at the plate and plays solid defense like he has this spring, Showalter will have the ability to give Wieters much more rest than he has been able to in previous years.
Showalter hasn’t had the luxury of a backup catcher that’s capable of playing well enough to not negatively impact the team, so he’s had to work Wieters like a sled dog. A well-rested Wieters will be able to produce at the plate and help the Orioles make a run at the World Series, but the only way that Wieters stays rested is if Clevenger is able to produce.