As Orioles manager Brandon Hyde sifts through his bullpen options, steady roster activity changing names, he can remain confident that Stevie Wilkerson will take the ball anytime. Wilkerson doesn’t need much warning. Just a teammate’s glove.
Wilkerson has joked that he owns 10 of them based on his super-utility status, but he’s used a loaner in his two relief outings this month that represent the first of his career.
Burned for a season-high 17 runs last night, the Orioles would like to keep a position player off the mound today. But they promise nothing.
Wilkerson has been used in emergency relief to cover three innings and he’s allowed only one run on Sandy León’s homer last night in the ninth. He tossed a 1-2-3 ninth against the Rays in the first game following the break.
“That’s never a situation you want to be in, but at this point it’s kind of a running joke,” Wilkerson said. “Last night, they told me to get ready for the eighth inning and I think I only threw eight, nine, 10 pitches that inning, so I told him I’ve got another one in me if he needs it.
“I was just happy that I could help our bullpen and put us in a better situation for today.”
The first out came on a roller from Jackie Bradley Jr. that required Wilkerson to sprint toward the line and throw across his body in foul territory. He sure looked like an infielder on the play.
“I think I had two strikes on him and he hit a little dribbler,” Wilkerson said. “When I watched the film it looked like I reacted right away, but it felt like I saw him hit it and I stared at it for a minute. Then I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go get that.’ So I ran over and fielded it and just felt like an infielder at that point. I flipped it over to C.D. (Chris Davis).
“That was actually the better part of the play was him being able to catch that ball.”
Wilkerson’s momentum carried him toward first base coach Arnie Beyeler, who fist-bumped him.
“It was pretty funny,” Wilkerson said.
Statcast kept registering the pitches as curveballs, likely due to the mid-50s velocity, but Leon’s home run supposedly came on a slider.
“I didn’t quite finish it,” Wilkerson said, laughing.
So it wasn’t a curveball that kept showing up on the live box score?
“That’s what I heard, too,” he said. “I don’t know. We’ll go with the eephus.”
Chance Sisco was behind the plate. Was he actually flashing signs to Wilkerson?
“I don’t even know if I’m looking at it,” Wilkerson said. “He just throws down some dummy signs and I just throw the same thing every time. We’re on the same page.”
The nicknames are piling up like the outs he records:
Wilky Smooth (that one’s mine)
Dr. Poo Poo
The latter is a collaboration between Wilkerson and manager Brandon Hyde. Wilkerson responded to a question on July 12 about his pitch selection by saying he threw “poo poo,” and Hyde added the honorary title last night.
“Tanner Scott picked us up big time with three great innings,” Hyde said, “and Dr. Poo Poo came in and pitched the last two.”
Wilkerson was watching “O’s Xtra” on MASN and loved the reference.
“That was pretty good,” he said. “I did see his press conference last night. He chuckled and I chuckled. Yeah, it was pretty funny.”
The name probably won’t end up on a vanity plate.
“I hope not,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson wasn’t worried about conserving his energy for the ninth inning. His arm was fine. It’s still good.
“Well, it wasn’t like I was out there blowing it out, you know?” he said. “I was just floating them in there. I probably could have thrown for a while if they needed me to.”
Somebody get this man a pitcher’s glove to complete his collection.
“I was thinking yesterday I might have to add another glove to the bag,” Wilkerson said. “We’ll see if I get my hands on a nice little pitcher’s mitt.”
Update: Trey Mancini homered off Cashner in the first inning for a 1-0 lead.
Update II: Chris Davis’ RBI double in the second extended the lead to 2-0.
Update III: Mancini’s two-run shot in the third increased the lead to 4-0.