Wieters debut stacks up to the greats

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So Matt Wieters made his debut last night. It was a rather
uneventful one: 0-for-4 (fly out to right, grounder back to the box,
weak grounder to 3rd, and a backwards K), and the poor Orioles fans
couldn’t even watch him take BP because of rain. Surely there will be
some highlights to come for the top prospect in baseball, but an 0-fer
debut, in a twisted way, actually puts him in some good company. Let’s
take a look at how some other Hall of Fame catchers fared in their
first game.

Johnny Bench made his debut on August 28th, 1967 at Crosley
Field as the Reds hosted the Phillies. Less than 10,000 people were in
the stands. Hitting 7th in the lineup, Bench popped up to short in his
first at-bat against Dick Ellsworth. But Bench had already had his “Welcome to the Majors” moment in the top half of the inning, when the opposing catcher, Gene Oliver,
stole third. The oppposing catcher! Ouch. Two innings later,
Philadelphia’s Don Lock tried to take second, but Bench gunned him
down.

Unfortunately, his first caught stealing didn’t translate to success
at the plate. In the bottom of the 4th, Ellsworth struck him out
looking, and in the 6th, against Turk Farrell,
Bench went down swinging with the tying run on third base. In the 9th,
trailing 3-2, Bench was lifted for the batting prowess of Chico Ruiz,
who was hitting .227 with a .577 OPS at that point (and was a career
.240 hitter with 2 HR). Ruiz flew out to left and the Reds eventually
lost. It would get much better for Bench after that.

A little more than 2 years later, on September 18, 1969, Carlton Fisk was behind the plate at Fenway Park for the first game of a doubleheader. With Mike Cuellar
on the mound for the Orioles, Fisk grounded out to third in the in 2nd
inning and then gave the shortstop some work in the 4th. Cuellar got
him swinging in the 7th and then to pop up to second the end the 8th.
No one tried to steal off of Fisk, although he did have a passed ball.
About a month later, those same Orioles would fall to the Amazin’ Mets
in the World Series in five games.

What about Gary Carter? He was a late September call-up for
the Expos in 1974, and made his debut on September 16th on the back
half of a doubleheader against the defending NL Champion Mets at Parc
Jerry in Montreal. This was the battle for 4th place, and only 9,166
people (assuming they all hung around) were there when The Kid stepped
in face Randy Sterling leading off the 3rd inning. He grounded out to third, and then flew out to left in the 5th. Tug McGraw
was on the hill when Carter batted in the 7th, but he fouled out to
first. he had the chance to be a hero in the bottom of the 9th though.
The tying run was on first with two outs, but Carter grounded into a
fielder’s choice to short, and the Mets held on. 0-for-4, but at least
he put it in play every time, unlike Bench or Fisk.

Didn’t any all-time catcher have an auspicious debut, you ask? Well of course. We just haven’t spoken about one Michael Joseph Piazza.

It was 73 degrees and sunny on September 1st, 1992, but the Cubs
must’ve really been awful because only 14,981 showed up to Wrigley
Field that day. Too bad, because a few thousand more people could’ve
been able to say, “I was there when the greatest hitting catcher of
all-time played his first game.”

Batting 6th in the Dodgers lineup, Piazza drew a walk in the 2nd inning off of pitcher Mike Harkey.
In the 4th, he didn’t give Harkey a chance to pitch around him, lining
a double to right-center, the quintessential Piazza hit. In the bottom
half of the inning, Dwight Smith attempted to steal second.
Maybe you could get away with that stuff in 2002, but not on this day:
Piazza gunned him down. In the 6th, he singled between third and short,
and then did the same off Paul Assenmacher in the 8th. After that, he was lifted for pinch runner Eric Young.
The game would last 13 innings, but in Piazza’s 8, he went 3-for-3 with
a walk, double, and threw out the only baserunner who tried to steal.
Not too shabby.

Orioles re-sign Michael Bourn to a minor league deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a single in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.

Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.

Shelby Miller is in the best mental shape of his life

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 24:  Shelby Miller #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller had about as bad a season as one can have. He was the headliner in the trade that sent 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte, and highly-regarded pitching prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves. It was a trade that was pilloried at the time and continues to be pilloried to this day.

Miller didn’t do then-GM Dave Stewart any favors with his 2016 performance. He went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 70/42 K/BB ratio over 101 innings. That included a bout with mechanical failure, as he kept hitting the mound with his follow-through. He went on the disabled list. And after that, he was demoted to Triple-A. After getting fired, Stewart expressed remorse over acquiring Miller — or, more accurately, giving up Swanson to do so.

So, the 26-year-old Miller heads into 2017 without any momentum. To his credit, though, he’s going into the new season with a very positive perspective. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

I’m just in a really happy place, away from the field, on the field. […]

Maybe it’s just the way I go about everything, trying to be positive in every single aspect of life. Baseball’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. I know bumps in the road are going to happen. Last year was obviously not just a bump, but a huge mountain. Right now, that’s completely behind me. I’m not worried about any of that.

I’m really ready for this year, ready to redeem myself so much.

Even pitching coach Mike Butcher sees the change in Miller’s mentality. “He’s not a different guy. But you can see there’s a presence in him. That’s what we need. Just be Shelby Miller. You don’t have to live up to anything. Just be yourself.”

Manager Torey Lovullo, too, praised Miller. “I saw a guy who had spent a lot of time taking care of his business in the weight room — he looks fantastic, in fantastic shape,” he said.

It sounds like Miller is not only in great mental shape, but great physical shape, too. Is it the “best shape of his life”? Only time can tell.