When the Pittsburgh Pirates visited the Baltimore Orioles for a spring training contest on Monday, there was little excitement following their lopsided 8-2 loss.
That was until Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen had some choice words for Matt Wieters concerning a play at the plate in the top of the fifth inning of Monday’s tilt.
“I don’t know what [Wieters] was thinking,” McCutchen said to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Tuesday. “It’s spring training. We’re not trying to get hurt. I wasn’t expecting that much contact. I’m okay, though.”
The play McCutchen was referring to came when he tried to score from first base on a Matt Diaz hit, only to be greeted by Wieters – who was blocking the plate – a few steps down the third base line. McCutchen wound up sliding feet first, directly into Wieters’ shin pads, and the third-year Oriole stood firm despite the collision.
After the critical comments had been printed, however, McCutchen had second thoughts on the play, acknowledging the incident as part of the game upon review.
Regardless of the fact it was a spring training game, Wieters was performing a standard duty typical of the catcher’s position: blocking the plate while receiving a teammate’s throw. Blocking the plate ultimately makes it easier for the catcher to apply a tag and thus prevent the runner from scoring.
If McCutchen didn’t want “too much contact,” he should have opted to not slide in the first place. Regardless, McCutchen plays the game hard and that’s one of the many reasons why he is arguably the most exciting player to watch from the Pirates’ roster.
Overall, the incident showed the competitive nature of two of Major League Baseball’s brightest young stars.
The two teams met again on Thursday – this time in Bradenton, FL with the Pirates as hosts.
“I had no problems with the slide; I don’t think there was anything wrong with it. It’s just a good baseball play,” Wieters told The Good Point following the Orioles’ 13-3 win at McKechnie Field.
“It’s baseball. Once you get on the field you go out and compete every play, it doesn’t matter if it’s spring training or the regular season. Nothing was dirty about the slide or anything.”
Looking back at the incident, not to mention his comments, McCutchen suggested that the whole situation was blown out of proportion, sharing a similar sentiment to that of Wieters.
“There really wasn’t an issue. I felt like there was a lot of contact that was made. [But] after reviewing it, after seeing some things, there was really nothing that he could do about it,” McCutchen said.
“The ball kind of took him out of the way, so it wasn’t like he was trying to over-block the plate. He was just trying to make a play, there’s no issue. It’s baseball, it’s going to happen, and I’m not mad or anything.”
With just two weeks left until the regular season begins, it’s only natural that two of the game’s brightest are both passionate about their teams’ performances in spring training, and cautious to stay healthy for opening day.