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Wieters impresses in first spring start

Cardinals' fielding a highlight in loss to Tigers, with three diving grabs in outfield
@RichardJustice
March 4, 2019

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Matt Wieters had signed with the Cardinals just five days earlier, but he wasted no time beginning this latest chapter of his career Monday afternoon by catching five innings, smacking a double and drawing a walk in three plate appearances. “I think especially for catchers, more than

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Matt Wieters had signed with the Cardinals just five days earlier, but he wasted no time beginning this latest chapter of his career Monday afternoon by catching five innings, smacking a double and drawing a walk in three plate appearances.

“I think especially for catchers, more than any other position, you have to get into games,” Wieters said after the Cardinals lost to the Tigers, 9-5. “It’s the one position where you’ve got to get in and know the [pitching] staff. You’ve got to be able to build a relationship.”

This is a spring unlike any other Wieters, 32, has had in his 10-year career. For one thing, he’s penciled in as a backup catcher for the first time, although backing up a future Hall of Famer -- Yadier Molina -- is a unique experience in itself.

“It’s a different situation with Yadi being the guy up top and having to compete for a spot,” Wieters said. “It’s feeling through the different emotions and energy as we go through it. I’ve enjoyed seeing how Yadi goes about his business. It’s something I wish I’d seen at the beginning of my career.”

As the Cardinals researched Wieters, manager Mike Shildt said the feedback -- some of it unsolicited -- was impressive.

“It’s interesting because I get a lot of texts about what a high-character guy he is, what a good guy he is,” Shildt said. “We know the ability. He’s had a nice career. That’s pretty documented what kind of player he is. [You also hear things like] 'This is a first-class guy, a real pro.' This is a guy you want to have in your clubhouse.”

Flashing the leather

By the end of the third inning, all three Cardinals starting outfielders -- Jose Martinez in left, Randy Arozarena in center and Dylan Carlson in right -- had made diving plays. Throw in a terrific play by Drew Robinson at third and it was the kind of day that makes a manager smile.

“You’re talking about four to five plus defensive plays,” Shildt said. “Guys were on point the whole time. Diving plays across the outfield. Fundamentally, I couldn’t have been more pleased.”

Carlson’s play in right was especially impressive on the heels of his nice play in left on Sunday. Carlson, 20, was the Cardinals' first-round pick in 2016 and is rated the team’s No. 8 prospect by MLB Pipeline.

“He’s had a nice camp,” Shildt said. “You look at very few guys break in at the position they started at. The flexibility to play multiple positions is important for him. If we had a need, we’d probably fire him into center.”

Up next

Alex Reyes, who has pitched in one Major League game over the past two seasons, is scheduled to make his first appearance of the spring when the Cardinals play the Phillies in Clearwater at 1:05 p.m. ET Tuesday. Right-hander Jack Flaherty will start the game for St. Louis.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.