Removing Arnie Beyeler as first base coach earlier this month also requires the Orioles to find a new outfield instructor. It’s a two-pronged search.
Beyeler handled those duties as Wayne Kirby did under former manager Buck Showalter.
Has anyone been more challenged in the role than Beyeler?
He had to teach Stevie Wilkerson to play center field, a brand new position for the utility infielder. He needed Wilkerson to grow more comfortable in left and right, where the results also were mixed.
“He had his hands full with me, not playing all that much outfield and coming up there and trying to learn how to play center field,” Wilkerson said. “I think both of us took it in stride and we had a good relationship, and I’m thankful for the time spent with me. The time spent with him. And grateful that he was able to turn me into a decent outfielder.”
Rule 5 pick Drew Jackson didn’t last a month with the club, but he made a start in center and played an inning in left after getting extensive work in the outfield in spring training in an attempt to increase his value and his chances of sticking in the majors.
Hanser Alberto made his first career starts in left and right. Veteran Jace Peterson had previous experience in the outfield, but he accumulated most of his starts at second base and played every infield position. He, too, required special attention.
Manager Brandon Hyde used nine players in left field, eight in center and seven in right over the course of the season. Not quite like the days when Adam Jones and Nick Markakis handled two-thirds of the outfield.
“Honestly, it was a pleasure working with him,” Wilkerson said of Beyeler. “Every day he made himself available and was always willing to do early work, extra work, late work. Whatever the case may be, whatever I needed, he just made himself available all of the time.
“Aside from that, too, every time I saw him when I got to the field every day he brought a smile to my face. He always brought really good energy, which I can really appreciate, and just a really likeable guy. I’ve got nothing for love for him and I really appreciate that I got to work with him.
Wilkerson will be paired with another instructor next spring, assuming he remains on the roster. Wilkerson takes nothing for granted. His placement on the team, his role in camp, how many gloves need to be stored in his locker.
“I don’t know if outfield’s in the cards for me next year or back to the infield or a little bit of both, which I would assume is what’s going to happen. But I have no idea,” he said.
“I definitely would be OK with that. I just hope it isn’t as up and down in a sense of performance. I hope that there’s more of a consistency level and I anticipate that being the case just with experience and knowing how to navigate a big league season and what it takes and things of that sort.”
Wilkerson has been able to collect his thoughts on a bizarre season, which included four relief appearances and a save, after returning to his home in Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago. He’s put pen to paper while trying to make sense of it.
“I gave myself a few days to relax and then I went over to the coffee shop on Friday, I believe, and sat down and just kind of wrote some things down and kind of recapped the season from start to finish,” he said. “I’m not quite done doing that, wrapping my head around everything, but I have had the chance to sit down and reflect on how crazy of a year it was.
“I don’t think another save is in the cards. I don’t anticipate some of the other craziness, either, but I’ll definitely take whatever they present to me in spring training, and if that’s similar to what it was this year, I look forward to doing it.”
Wilkerson enjoyed the pitching component of his season, though he’d rather have it happen under better circumstances. If that’s possible.
“Only if we’re the one blowing the other team out,” he said.
Today’s question: Who’s your all-time favorite Orioles utility player?
I’ll remove myself from the discussion because my opinion is influenced by covering Wilkerson and Ryan Flaherty, two of the really good guys in baseball.
He doesn’t really count as a utility guy because he only played the outfield and caught twice, but as a kid I’d feel disappointed when Tom Shopay cracked a star-studded lineup. It felt like a throwaway game.
Shopay was a career .201/.262/.259 hitter in 253 games over parts of seven major league seasons, the first two spent with the Yankees before the Orioles selected him in the 1969 Rule 5 draft. But he committed only one error, and it occurred in his first season in 1967.
Shameless plug alert: I’m crashing the “Wall to Wall Baseball” set from noon-2 p.m. on MASN.