BALTIMORE—Stevie Wilkerson was the Orioles’ centerfielder for the second straight time on Saturday. On Friday night, he played his first game in center. With Joey Rickard in a 1-for-22 slump, Wilkerson got another chance.
“It didn’t feel like it was totally foreign for whatever reason,” Wilkerson said. “I’ve done a lot of work out there in [batting practice], and got a lot of reads off the bat in BP.”
In his first 26 major league games over the last two seasons, Wilkerson has played every position but first base, catcher and pitcher. He played a game at first base for Triple-A Norfolk this season and also played there in spring training.
“I thought he played OK last night,” manager Brandon Hyde said Saturday. “He made a nice catch going back on a ball. He made a nice throw to the plate. We’re going to throw him out there again. We don’t have a true centerfielder on this club. It’s a little bit by committee right now.”
After Cedric Mullins started the season off horribly and was sent to Norfolk with an .094 average, the Orioles were left without a centerfielder. It was a position that belonged to Adam Jones for nearly 11 seasons.
“I think centerfield is the one outfield spot you hope you get a chance to play,” Wilkerson said. “When I saw my name on the card yesterday playing center, it’s exciting, and I had fun with it.”
For now, it’s Rickard and Wilkerson on the centerfield depth chart, but there might be other options soon. Mullins is hitting .293 with a homer and five RBIs in 10 games with the Tides. Austin Hays, whose sprained left thumb has sidelined him so far this season, is playing in extended spring training.
“I haven’t been told anything, and I haven’t sensed anything,” Wilkerson said.
This year, Wilkerson is batting .242 with two home runs and five RBIs in 10 games.
“I’m starting to settle in,” Wilkerson said. “The nerves are starting to, not completely go away, but the anxiousness and the nervousness are starting to settle. It feels like a normal at-bat again.”
As versatile as Wilkerson is, he would probably be the choice if the Orioles needed an emergency catcher, but he doesn’t have extensive experience.
“I’ve caught some bullpens. That’s the extent of it,” Wilkerson said. “If Hyder told me to grab some gear, I’d grab some gear.”
Martin continues to sit: After doubling and tripling in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader, Richie Martin hasn’t played.
He says he’s fine physically. Martin is hitting .176 with two RBIs.
“It’s more of me just playing [Hanser] Alberto at second and [Jonathan Villar] at short,” Hyde said “Just trying to pick good matchups for Richie. I like the way he swung the bat in that doubleheader game, and if we have the lead, he’ll go in for defense.”
Hyde praises Rays: The Tampa Bay Rays entered Saturday with the best record in the American League. They have the best pitching in the major leagues with a 2.98 ERA.
“Tampa’s done a lot of things well for a while now,” Hyde said. “What they’ve always done is develop pitching, and that’s really been the backbone of the their organization, getting guys and acquiring guys with premier arms that are able to pitch in the AL East, able to strike guys out.
“With the staff they have, it’s guys with huge stuff, huge strikeout numbers. They’ve just done a really good job of developing pitching, of having their pitchers improve when they got to the big leagues.”
On Friday, Tyler Glasnow baffled the Orioles, allowing just three singles and striking out nine in seven innings.
“Glasnow was really good last year in Pittsburgh, but that last night, you don’t see that very often,” Hyde said. “Complete domination of the lineup, and rightfully so. A guy like that is going to beat anybody when he’s got 100 mph in the tank with a [curve] with a 94-mph changeup that he’s throwing for strikes. It’s really tough to muster any kind of rally.
“They’ve done a really good job of getting pitching and building around it … They have a really good blueprint of prolonged success.”
Karns update: Right-hander Nate Karns, who was returned to the injured list after rehab appearances in Norfolk and Double-A Bowie, will have a second opinion on Monday on his injured forearm.
Cody Carroll, who hasn’t yet pitched this season because of a back injury, will resume throwing on Monday in Sarasota.