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O's Wieters gets the call


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POSTED: Friday, May 29, 2009

BALTIMORE » Matt Wieters will make his major league debut with the Baltimore Orioles tonight, armed with a potent bat and the burden of fulfilling the role of the can't-miss prospect who will rescue the struggling franchise from its run of 12 straight losing seasons.

It's an almost untenable situation, even for a player who has had so much minor league success. But the Orioles and their fans have been waiting for Wieters' arrival since Baltimore drafted the 6-foot-5 slugger with the fifth overall pick in the 2007 amateur draft.

"I can understand the anticipation and the excitement that everybody has," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said yesterday. "You don't get these guys very often."

Wieters has excelled at every level. After starring at Georgia Tech, he batted .345 with Class A Frederick last year before being promoted on June 27 to Double-A Bowie, where he hit .365 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs in 61 games. He has sustained that success with Triple-A Norfolk, where he was batting .305 with five home runs and 30 RBIs in 39 games through Wednesday.

In spite of those numbers, the Orioles waited patiently until they were sure Wieters was ready to face major league pitching.

"We're reasonably comfortable that this is a good time for him," president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "We're going to give it a shot."

Earlier this week, the Orioles drew the smallest crowd in the 18-year history of Camden Yards—10,130. There could be nearly four times as many fans for tonight's game against Detroit.

"We've definitely seen a spike in ticket sales," said Monica Barlow, the team's director of public relations. "It's student night, and the first fireworks night. Between that and Matt coming up, there's going to be a pretty strong walk up."

Expectations are extremely high, so Trembley has tried to make everyone realize that Wieters is only 23 years old and will not single-handedly turn around a team that is last in the AL East.

"I don't expect him to bat 1.000. I don't expect him to be perfect," the manager said. "I expect him to ease his way in."

Orioles designated hitter Luke Scott said, "I don't think it's fair to put pressure on a guy like that. Just leave him alone. It's not fair to build him up as the next coming. It's hard enough to play at the big league level. People are just setting him up for failure."

Or, Wieters could be an instant success.

"I'll just attack the strike zone and keep the ball down," said Dontrelle Willis, Detroit's starting pitcher today. "If he hits three home runs, I might have to change it."