Posted on April 2, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Washington Nationals Matt Wieters

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With an important season ahead of him, Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters is making an early-season trip to the DL. The Nationals placed Wieters on the DL Monday, just three games into the season, because of a left oblique strain. In a corresponding move, the Nationals have called up Pedro Severino.

Wieters played in Washington’s first two games of the season on Friday and Saturday. He showed no obvious signs of an injury in those games. He then sat out Sunday’s game, as new manager Dave Martinez tried to get backup catcher Miguel Montero a start the first weekend of the season. However, Wieters did not take batting practice before Sunday’s game. He was also hesitant to exert himself when throwing the ball while helping to warm up pitchers between innings on Sunday.

At the moment, there is no timetable for how long Wieters will be on the DL. However, oblique strains can sometimes take a long time to fully heal. Coming back too soon can sometimes lead to an extended absence, especially for players like Wieters who are over the age of 30. The uncertainty of oblique injuries could force the Nationals to be careful with how quickly they try to bring Wieters back from the DL.

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Fortunately for the Nationals, they should feel good about their catching situation behind Wieters. Montero had one of his most productive offensive seasons last year until parting ways with the Cubs midseason. He’s also a veteran backstop capable of handling a pitching staff. The Nationals have also been high on Severino for quite some time. He’s spent parts of the last three seasons in the big leagues. But he’s never gotten a chance to get significant playing time with the Nationals.

In the two games he did play, Wieters was 1 for 7 with two walks. He’s coming off the worst season of his career offensively, hitting just .225 with an OPS of .632. After that kind of season, there was some pressure on him heading into the season to turn things around. With a bounce-back season, Wieters could have made an already formidable Washington lineup even deeper during the 2018 season.

Perhaps more important than any offensive contributions he makes, Wieters also has a good reputation with the Washington pitching staff. Dual aces Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer seemed to enjoy throwing to Wieters last season. Nationals pitchers may not have the same kind of rapport with Montero, who is new to the organization.

The Nationals are no doubt hopeful Wieters can return from the DL as soon as possible. But the injury could also cost him his job as the team’s primary catcher. Both Montero and Severino are capable catchers, and if one of them catches fire offensively, they could become the first-choice backstop by the time Wieters returns. Considering how much Wieters needs to bounce back after such a rough 2017 season, the timing of his injury couldn’t be much worse. He can only hope he can get back soon and reclaim his spot.

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