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Wieters knows what Zaun brings to Rays

Wieters knows what Zaun brings to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- The pregame music was blaring through the speaker system in the Tampa Bay clubhouse on Tuesday. It's a new atmosphere in the normally hushed Rays locker room, and the vibe stems from new catcher Gregg Zaun.

The Rays are just beginning to see the influence of Zaun, the energetic 14-year veteran who almost immediately has engulfed the clubhouse with his personality. Down the hallway, in the visiting clubhouse, one former teammate knows about it firsthand.

"You see that passion come out of him," said Orioles rookie catcher Matt Wieters. "That passion is something that's going to keep him in this game a long time."

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The Rays picked up Zaun through a waiver trade on Aug. 7, after he spent the first four months of the season with the O's. He primarily served as the backup catcher, especially after the May call up of Wieters, Baltimore's top prospect.

As Wieters has developed throughout his rookie season, he looks strongly at how he was affected by Zaun -- an experienced veteran known for his toughness, knowledge, personality and outgoing passion for the sport.

The Rays players are starting to recognize that now. Wieters said he's known it since March, when Zaun took him in during Spring Training.

"He was a great influence on me," Wieters said. "To hear from him was huge. He's definitely a good influence and a good model that I got to learn from."

In the first two games of this series, both were starting, though for opposite clubs. Entering Wednesday's contest, Zaun was batting .350 in seven games for the Rays. Wieters hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning on Tuesday night, his fourth homer of the season.

The respect between the backstops is mutual.

"He's a great kid, he really is," Zaun said. "And that was one of the things that made life easy for me. I was working with a guy as little as I did work with him. My approach was to leave him alone and let him do it for a while, because he obviously did some really special things to be thought of the way he is by that organization."

Zaun has never been flashy or highly touted offensively, as Wieters has. Zaun is a career .251 hitter in 14 seasons with nine different teams, and his career high in home runs is 12 (with Toronto in 2006). But his experience, work ethic and ability to work with pitching staffs have kept him on rosters over the years.

Finding a roster spot may not be a difficult thing for the talented 23-year-old Wieters. And down the road, he may have Zaun to thank, in some ways, for that.

"He's been around and seen more things than I can even imagine," Wieters said. "I just tried to soak up all of his experiences he's had in the past and try and learn from what he's been through."

Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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