Stevie Wilkerson adds center field to his defensive resume

The versatile Stevie Wilkerson added “center fielder” to his defensive resume last night in the Orioles’ loss to Tampa Bay. He had started in center twice this year at Triple-A Norfolk and last night made his first-ever major league start at the position.

And it went well, and he’s back there tonight. He made a catch near the wall in the third inning Friday, and a strong throw home that was late on a sac fly in the sixth.

Wilkerson-Throw-Orange-sidebar.jpgWilkerson has said that he loves defensive challenges, and he’s now played every infield and outfield position in pro ball.

“Yeah, definitely. I think center field is the one outfield spot you hope you get a chance to play,” Wilkerson said. “And when I saw my name on the card yesterday playing center, it was exciting, it was a good opportunity. And I had fun with it.”

But his experience is limited there so far, so much so that he pretty much knows exactly how many innings he has played at the position.

“Think I’ve logged about 27 innings out there so far in my life,” he said. “But last night was the first time up here playing in center. It was fun. The angles are different and there is a lot of ground to cover, but you see the ball off the bat, probably, better than the corner spots.”

So for one night at least, he felt pretty comfortable out there.

“I wasn’t all that nervous, and it didn’t feel totally foreign for whatever reason. Probably because I did a lot of work out there in BP and I got a lot of reads off the bat in BP. So it felt pretty natural.”

But whether he will get a long look in center, Wilkerson doesn’t know. “I haven’t been told anything,” he said.

Cedric Mullins made 19 starts for the Orioles in center before he was sent down to Norfolk, and Joey Rickard has made 12. Drew Jackson started out there once. Tonight will make twice for Wilkerson.

Wilkerson would like to be a nice addition to the Orioles offense. He’s batting .242 with two homers and five RBIs in 33 plate appearances. He hit a big three-run homer in Game 2 Wednesday at Chicago that gave the Orioles a two-run lead. He is 4-for-12 his past three games.

“Yeah, (feeling) pretty good. I’m starting to settle in,” he said. “You know, the nerves are starting to, not completely go away, but the anxiousness is starting to settle. Just feels like a normal at-bat again.”

So will Wilkerson be adding even more to his defensive resume and even catch at some point?

Reporters are always wondering which player is the emergency third catcher. He might be that guy.

“I have caught some bullpens. That is the extent of it,” Wilkerson said. “If Hyder (manager Brandon Hyde) told me to grab some gear, I’d grab some gear.”

So then, someone joked, he could take the mound for an inning and play nine positions over nine innings.

“That’s not on my goal list,” he said, laughing.

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