The Orioles tossed another name into their bullpen competition today, at the expense of a super-utility player whose popularity soared last season.
Wilkerson, 28, also was designated for assignment last winter, but had his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk on April 22 and appeared in 117 games. He led the team with 57 starts in center field and became the first position player to record a save with a scoreless 16th inning in Anaheim, earning the nickname “Dr. Poo Poo” along the way.
The Orioles figured to include Wilkerson in their utility mix in camp, but he’d have to clear waivers and accept an outright assignment. He made four emergency relief appearances last season, played left field, right field and second base and batted .225/.286/.383 with 18 doubles, two triples and 10 home runs in 361 plate appearances.
No one produced a better catch last season than Wilkerson’s acrobatic grab in right field that robbed Jackie Bradley Jr. of a walk-off home run in the season finale at Fenway Park. Wilkerson spun off the higher portion of the fence and held onto the ball.
Pat Valaika was claimed off waivers again yesterday, giving the Orioles an extra infielder and perhaps making Wilkerson more expendable. They claimed Richard Ureña this month and also have Richie Martin, Dilson Herrera and José Rondón on the camp roster.
Austin Hays is ticketed for center field this season, further squeezing Wilkerson out of the picture.
The Red Sox selected Lakins in the sixth round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Ohio State University, designated him for assignment earlier this month and traded him to the Cubs for future considerations.
Lakins made his major league debut this season and appeared in 16 games, including three starts. He allowed 10 earned runs and 11 total with 10 walks, 18 strikeouts and only one home run surrendered in 23 1/3 innings.
Over five minor league seasons, Lakins has gone 17-13 with 4.45 ERA and 1.431 WHIP and averaged 0.7 home runs per nine innings. Forty of his 41 appearances last year with Triple-A Pawtucket came in relief.
The Orioles provided Lakins’ opposition in four consecutive appearances, the first two at Camden Yards from June 14-16. He allowed one earned run and struck out five batters in 5 1/3 innings.
Wilkerson is the second Oriole to be designated for assignment in the past two days. Reliever Branden Kline came off the 40-man roster to make room for Valaika.