In an MLB Network Radio interview on Friday afternoon, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told hosts Jim Bowden and Mike Ferrin that he checked in on Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto last winter, but in spite of some recent rumors, unless something changes in Miami, a potential deal for the catcher doesn’t seem likely.
“We touched base with Realmuto early in the winter,” Rizzo said, “and really haven’t circled back yet. They’ve got a great player in Realmuto, they’re not going to sell him cheap and we know what the return has to be on Realmuto and we’re not willing to meet that price, so unless something changes there on their end, we’re going to go with [Matt] Wieters when he gets healthy and a combination of [Pedro] Severino and [Spencer] Kieboom to back him up.”
Wieters, 32, put up a .231/.342/.385 line with a double and three home runs in 23 games and 76 plate appearances early this season, but he’s been on the Disabled List since May 10th, when he suffered a hamstring injury that required surgery. He’s making progress.
“It’s going well,” Wieters said of his recovery on Saturday afternoon. “It’s been a build-up, and it’s constantly being able to put enough strength into it while at the same not over-working it, so it’s a fine line to kind of get that feel but it definitely feels like the strength has — over the last few days — has come around to where I can push it even more, which is a good feeling.”
The next step for the veteran backstop?
“I’ve been hitting tee and hitting flips, and we’ll get into some actual BP soon, hopefully. I think swinging will come — like I said, once it gets strong enough to kind of cut it loose running, I think everything else it will be strong enough.”
“I put a lot of time into making sure that the strength is there first.”
Asked if he was hesitant to test out the hamstring, he said it’s just a matter of getting everything working together.
“I wasn’t hesitant mentally, but I think just your muscle is hesitant because it’s having to figure out how to do things differently, so any time you’ve been doing something for 30 years and you have to try to figure out how.
“A different muscle has to try to figure out how it has to do more. It was a little bit of trying to get the brain to tell the muscle, ‘Hey, you need to do a little bit more,’ but I think we’ve finally gotten to that point where the hamstring realizes different parts are going to have work, and we definitely get some fatigue from that, but it’s a good thing because it’s building up strength and what we’re going to need.”
According to both Severino and Kieboom, while he’s been working his way back, Wieters has been there for the young catchers to help them in any way he can, and they’ve been working together as well.
“We are family. We are teammates, so everything you need to help, somebody is right there to help you,” Severino said last week in New York. “It’s not like because he’s a catcher, I’m a catcher, it’s going to be something different.
“Over here it’s like everything is different, if I need help I just ask him and he just tries to help me all the time.”
“I’ve known Severino forever,” Kieboom said. “Severino and I are good friends, and talking to Sevy the night before things like that, and talking to Matt has been great too since he’s been in the league for such a long time, and he has a good idea about the veteran hitters and how they think, different situations, Matt has been good too, like, ‘Hey, man, you missed a spot right there. Right pitch, wrong spot.’”
“They probably give me [more] credit than I deserve from that,” Wieters said Saturday afternoon. “More than anything I just want to be here if they have any questions.
“There’s so many different mental aspects of the game, but especially for a catcher, and the hardest thing is being able to go through a game plan and call a game, and I think they’ve both done that fantastically, so more than anything it’s just kind of encouraging them when they may not be swinging like they like to, that they’re just as valuable to the team calling a good game and playing good defense as they would be with their bat, and just kind of keep them mentally focused because a young kid, everybody wants to hit, you always want to hit, but for a catcher, you can win a game without hitting, so it’s a tough position to play, but also you can get a lot of joy even when you’re not having the best day at the plate when you’re catching, and then just trying to keep them focused on, ‘Don’t get too frustrated with it,’ there are things you can improve on, but don’t let the frustration take away from their calling a game and catching a game which they’ve been doing really well.”