Things can change fast in baseball and they have for the Orioles’ Stevie Wilkerson. A player that was designated for assignment by the club late in spring training on March 23 is starting in left field tonight. And he soon could get some starts in center field for the Orioles.
Wilkerson’s had a hot bat going at Triple-A and his contract was selected today from Norfolk and he was added back to the 40 and 25-man rosters. Cedric Mullins was optioned to Triple-A where he will try to get his bat going and his confidence back. He was hitting .094 (6-for-64).
March 23, when the Orioles claimed catcher Pedro Severino on waivers, Wilkerson was DFA. But five days later, after he cleared waivers, he was outrighted to Triple-A. He got off to a hot start for the Tides, batting .316/.350/.456 in 15 games going 18-for-57 with a triple, two homers, three steals, 11 runs and 10 RBIs. In a recent four-game stretch, Wilkerson went 10-for-17.
So less than a month since he was designated, he’s back and in the starting lineup.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Wilkerson said today of the DFA move. “I was a bit disappointed, naturally. I had a tough spring (batting .222) and that’s the nature of the business. It’s a performance industry. I had a tough spring and was the guy to get let go you know.”
But Wilkerson obviously regrouped and came out hitting when the minor league season began.
“Just kept on trucking,” he said. “It’s a funny game. You experience highs and you experience lows and unfortunately I choose to do both of the extremes far too often. Just stuck to the grind and continued to put my best foot forward. I didn’t really do anything drastically to change something up. The ball started rolling my way and baseball is crazy.”
Mostly an infielder since the Orioles drafted him in 2014 in round eight from Clemson, Wilkerson has made 14 starts in the outfield in the minors since 2017, but tonight will start in the outfield in the majors for the first time. He played in center for Norfolk both Saturday and Sunday and was asked today about possibly playing center for the Orioles.
“It’s still a bit new to me but I feel fine out there. I played there the last couple of games in Norfolk. They’ve got me in left tonight. I feel fairly comfortable everywhere. I had logged some innings in center field in previous years.”
Wilkerson didn’t read anything into it when he checked the lineup card Saturday and saw center field next to his name.
“No, I just saw my name on the card and grabbed a glove and a ball,” he said.
Then the player, who had a tough spring, got a call during an Easter party with some of his Tides teammates at his house last night. He was heading to Baltimore. He joked that he had 10 gloves in spring training and 11 now. Manager Brandon Hyde told him be ready to play anywhere.