Baltimore area sportswriters seem to think June 9 makes a lot of sense for his major league debut.
It's still a little early for some of the best young pitching prospects, but the time is drawing near for the watershed moment in the Orioles' long-term rebuilding program. The arrival of top prospect Matt Wieters is just around the corner.
The date has not been announced, but we're already inside the general time frame that was laid out by the front office over the offseason. The Orioles signed free-agent catcher Gregg Zaun to start the first couple of months of the season and projected Wieters to be called up from Triple-A Norfolk in late May or sometime in June. The team always intended to hold Wieters back in April to preserve a seventh major league season under club control. It now is within reach of also preventing him from becoming a "Super-2" arbitration candidate, but that probably wouldn't have been a consideration if he had burst out of the gate in April instead of suffering a minor hamstring injury and getting off to a relatively slow start at the plate.
Now he's charging back, and it won't be long, though it probably makes economic sense to wait the remaining 11 days and save that year of arbitration now that the June 1 deadline is so close at hand. It's not my money, so I don't really care, and neither should anyone outside the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos, but since Wieters is starting to roll again, another week or two at Triple-A isn't going to hurt him.
The date that seems most likely is June 9, when the Orioles return from a six-game West Coast road trip to open a homestand against the Seattle Mariners, Atlanta Braves and New York Mets. The Orioles could choose to start him on that road trip instead, but I'm not really sure about the logic of that. The notion that he would be under less pressure playing his first major league game in Seattle might sound reasonable, but I'm guessing that the coast-to-coast travel, time-zone change and hostile environment would offset whatever psychological advantage might be derived from debuting on the road.
And, anyway, he's going to face much the same media and fan interest June 9 regardless of whether he gets a few games in on the road. That date makes sense because it's about the right timing from a developmental standpoint, and it's definitely the right timing for the Orioles to get the maximum marketing value out of the debut of their hottest minor league prospect. The Mariners aren't exactly a big draw in Baltimore, but that home series would get a major boost from the arrival of one of the cornerstones of the team's future.
Wieters has been the elephant in the room since he cut like a knife through two levels of the minor league system last year. He was named Minor League Player of the Year for 2008 by Baseball America and the game's top prospect this year by the same publication. The Orioles could have made a case for handing him the starting job behind the plate out of spring training, but the plan was always to give him a couple of months to strut his stuff at the Triple-A level.
There is no guarantee that Wieters and this new wave of young talent will get the Orioles to the Promised Land, but there is no question that they are on the threshold of a new era.
The wait is almost over.