LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — While the focus on the Orioles on Tuesday centered around trade rumors and third baseman Manny Machado, another young infielder in the organization has made more definitive news.
Steve Wilkerson, who thrust himself onto the club’s radar in 2017 by hitting .305 between High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie, has been suspended for 50 games without pay for testing positive for an amphetamine, a violation of the minor league drug prevention and treatment program.
The announcement was made by Major League Baseball on Tuesday evening.
The suspension for Wilkerson, who is a member of Triple-A Norfolk’s roster, is effective at the start of the International League’s season.
Wilkerson, who turns 26 in January, was considered a possibility – albeit a longshot – for the Orioles’ open utility infielder job in 2018. His lack of range hampered his ability to play shortstop, however, which hurt his chances of making the Opening Day roster. But the organization liked Wilkerson’s switch-hitting bat, energy and hustling style of play.
He was part of the group the Orioles sent to the prestigious Arizona Fall League this year, and he acquitted himself well by slashing .317/.396/.512 in 97 plate appearances for Salt River.
An Orioles’ eighth-rounder in 2014 out of Clemson University, Wilkerson was not added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster this winter, which left him available to be selected by another team in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft.