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Nationals announce deal with free-agent catcher Matt Wieters

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Posted at 6:39 PM, Feb 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-24 18:39:53-05

Matt Wieters said he managed to cut his left wrist severely by breaking a five-gallon glass water container in his garage on Nov. 1, delaying his offseason preparation -- and, he thinks, his chance to find a deal in free agency.

"It's tough finding a team when you can't do anything baseball-related," Wieters said Friday, when the catcher took batting practice and ran conditioning sprints at spring training with the Washington Nationals after his signing was announced. "They told me I was very lucky that it wasn't worse than it was."

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Wieters' contract is worth $10.5 million in 2017, and he has a player option for another $10.5 million in 2018.

Now the obstacle for Wieters is getting up to speed with the reigning NL East champions' pitching staff. The Nationals' first exhibition game is Saturday against the division rival New York Mets.

"There's definitely enough time," Wieters said. "As a catcher, I'd love to have as much as possible. Being able to listen (to the pitchers) and how they pitch will help me out a lot."

He joins a crowded clubhouse of catchers. Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino played in Washington last season, and the club traded for San Diego's Derek Norris. In all, there are six catchers on the 40-man roster.

General manager Mike Rizzo described Wieters as "a leader in the clubhouse and on the field" for the Baltimore Orioles, the only major league club the four-time All-Star has played for until now.

Wieters, 30, has a .256 career batting average with 117 homers and 437 RBIs over eight seasons. Last year, he hit .244 with 17 homers and 66 RBIs in 124 games

"It's a unique thing to find someone who can be a switch-hitter at such a premium position and be so consistent on both sides," second baseman Daniel Murphy said. "Lengthens out our lineup. That's a really tough matchup problem."

Wieters played with Max Scherzer on the 2005 U.S. national baseball team when both were in college.

"It'll be interesting to see how he sees the game and what he's looking for and where that matches up with my strengths and weaknesses," Scherzer said. "It's always good to have a different mind critiquing how you go about your business.

"He's done it for a long time and had success managing a pitching staff. It'll be fun working with him."

NOTES: 1B Jose Marmolejos went on the 60-day DL with a strained left forearm, making room on the 40-man roster for Wieters. ... Rizzo said he expects Scherzer to be ready for opening day. The pitcher is working his way back from a broken knuckle on his pitching hand.