Backup catcher Chad Moeller’s offensive difficulties have been well documented, but his defense hasn’t gotten much attention. Moeller, often labeled as a strong influence on young pitchers, has gone 1-for-22 in throwing out potential base-stealers this season. Part of that is undoubtedly on the pitchers allowing runners to take leads, but part rests on Moeller alone.
— Spencer Fordin
The Orioles announced Wednesday that veteran catcher Chad Moeller has cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A Norfolk. Moeller began the season as Baltimore’s backup but was demoted once the Orioles called up top prospect Matt Wieters.
Moeller, who batted .200 with one home run and two RBIs in 15 games with the Orioles, is expected to report to Norfolk on Friday. The Orioles hold an option for next season in Moeller’s contract, which may explain why he elected to stay with the organization.
The Orioles have decided to grant staff ace Jeremy Guthrie a personal catcher, linking their Opening Day starter to backup catcher Chad Moeller. Moeller has been able to steady Guthrie, and manager Dave Trembley said he wants to continue that trend. However, Trembley went out of his way to say it’s not a knock on starter Gregg Zaun.
“If some other time comes where Moeller is not catching Guthrie, I don’t want it to send a red flag,” he said. “But Zaun has caught four days in a row [and] five out of the last six. The last time that Guthrie pitched, he …threw a great game with Moeller. So I’m catching him tonight.”
In addition to making Guthrie more comfortable, it also gives Trembley a pattern for playing his catchers. This way, Moeller knows when he’ll play next and Zaun knows when he’ll get a day off. Trembley said he doesn’t think it will be a problem over the long haul.
“I don’t think there is any problem between them,” he said of the relationship between Guthrie and Zaun. “But if I could do something to make the situation more comfortable for the guy on the mound, I’ll certainly try to extend that.”
Baltimore’s bench depth was sorely tested on Sunday, when center fielder Adam Jones left the game early with a tight right hamstring and the Orioles needed pinch-hitters in the ninth. Manager Dave Trembley was prepared to use his final two players as pinch-hitters — catcher Gregg Zaun and shortstop Cesar Izturis — but Zaun struck out to end the game.
Izturis, who was getting a day off, ended the game in the on-deck circle, and Trembley said he doesn’t mind using all his players.
“You’re going to do what you’ve got to do to try and win the game,” he said. “I really didn’t think twice about what the alternatives were. I thought we had our guys lined up. If we get a hit there, we’re talking about winning the game, not losing it. The short bench doesn’t bother me. You win the games because your pitching gives you the opportunity to be in position to win. You don’t win the games because of extra guys that are on your bench.”
Baltimore’s bench may be even thinner on Monday, because Jones isn’t expected to be healthy enough to play. That would leave Chad Moeller as the backup catcher and Robert Andino as the backup infielder, severely limiting Trembley’s in-game options.
The Orioles made one final roster move in preparation for the regular season on Sunday, when they officially added Chad Moeller to the active roster. Moeller will serve as a backup catcher to Gregg Zaun until the Orioles decide to promote top prospect Matt Wieters.
Baltimore will also have to make a roster move soon after the season begins. The Orioles are beginning the year without fifth starter Adam Eaton and will have to make a move to add him. Eaton’s turn doesn’t come up until April 11 or April 12, giving the team a week to decide.
In essence, the decision hinges on whether the team wants to carry 13 position players or 13 pitchers. If the Orioles want to keep an extra reliever, shortstop Robert Andino will be the likely cut. If they want to keep the player, Brian Bass or Matt Albers would be in jeopardy.
Veteran catcher Chad Moeller was listed as the designated hitter for both the orange and the black team for Thursday’s scrimmage, and manager Dave Trembley said he thought it was a convenient way to get him some extra at-bats before the spring season concludes.
Moeller, the favorite to break camp as Baltimore’s backup catcher, took his assignment seriously. He started the game with a black jersey on, and when asked if he had to switch during the game, he pulled up his sleeve to reveal an orange jersey underneath.