Stevie Wilkerson wants to play everywhere for Orioles - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Spring Training

Stevie Wilkerson wants to play everywhere for Orioles

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

It was early on Sunday morning, and it didn’t matter to Stevie Wilkerson that he’d lost an hour of sleep because of Daylight Saving Time. He was ready to go.

Wilkerson is playing first base for the Orioles on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Florida. He’s trying to convince the team that he needs to be on it. In the regular season, Wilkerson has played every position but catcher and first.

Like most of his teammates — who are hitting a collective .202, by far the worst in the majors, after managing one hit on Saturday — Wilkerson’s average is poor this spring. He’s 2-for-17 (.118).

“I don’t think the numbers indicate how I am feeling,” Wilkerson said. “Early on, I think getting back into the speed of the game, and just putting myself in game mode, took a little bit, took a few ABs. I was a little timid here and there, felt like it had been as long as it had been since I’d faced another team.

“Right now, I feel comfortable on each side of the plate,” the 29-year-old switch-hitter said. “I haven’t gotten a ton of at-bats and a ton of consistency but all things considered, I like where I’m at right now.”

Five days before the start of 2020 60-game season, Wilkerson broke his left ring finger in right field in Philadelphia, costing him the entire season.

He estimates that in a 162-game season he would have lost seven or eight weeks. Last year, a season with an expanded roster, a healthy Wilkerson would have gotten considerable playing time.

“A little thing like that, it was definitely still significant,” he said.

Wilkerson is an optimist, but he is also a realist. He knows there’s competition for a utility spot on the club and sees who has comparable skills.

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“I would like to think that everyone does that,” Wilkerson said. “I look at it and say, ‘Where do I think I can help this team the most?’ I would think that evaluators probably do the same thing and it’s not like it’s, ‘Hey, this is my guy. It’s me versus him.’

“You certainly look and check personnel and run through scenarios in your head and see, ‘If this happens, maybe my role will be this. If this happens, my role will be this.’ At the same time, it’s about putting your best foot forward and playing your best ball.”

Pat Valaika, who’s on the 40-man roster, is probably ahead of Wilkerson if the Orioles keep only one utility player. But if Chris Davis begins the season on the injured list, which is likely, and the Orioles decide to begin with 13 pitchers instead of 14, Wilkerson has a better chance to go north.

Wilkerson is on a minor league contract and space on the 40-man roster would have to be created if he’s added.

In 2019, Wilkerson played center field by necessity. With so many outfielders in camp, Wilkerson is getting his playing time in the infield.

“I’ve always loved playing the infield,” Wilkerson said. “Infield defense is what originally got me into the big leagues. In the minor leagues when I was scuffling with the bat a little bit here and there, it was definitely my infield defense that kept me around long enough for my bat to catch up.

“It feels good to be back in the infield, but I certainly take pride in my ability to play any position at any time, infield, outfield. I think if you look at our outfield, it’s a pretty impressive group, so obviously I’m going to be in the dirt a little bit more. Those guys are danged good players. I love playing anywhere out there, but it’s nice to feel like it’s more of a true utility role, infield, outfield everything.”

Earlier this week, manager Brandon Hyde said that he wants his utility players to be able to play shortstop. Valaika is originally a shortstop while Wilkerson has played just two innings in his career there.

“It’s definitely important to be able to play shortstop,” Wilkerson said. “Most people would tell you it’s the most difficult position to be on the field. The fewest amount of people can do it.

“I think I can play shortstop. I feel comfortable over there. I’ve taken a lot of reps in practice over there and in summer camp last year … when we were having a tough time putting nine guys on the field on each side to play each other, I played some shortstop, too. If you’re talking about a utility guy, he needs to be able to play every position. Shortstop is just one of those, and I think they’re all important to be able to fill in at.”

Even though the team is struggling, Wilkerson thinks the 2021 Orioles are better than the 2019 and 2020 teams.

“There’s a lot of young talent,” he said. “Even guys that got opportunities last year after having opportunities before that maybe they didn’t take advantage of, certainly did last year. Overall, the level of talent around here has taken strides in the right direction, and we’ll see how everyone performs under the big lights.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Orial

    March 14, 2021 at 12:46 pm

    Nothing against Stevie,seems like a nice guy, BUT if he makes this team all is for naught. 3 years of building and developing and we come back to square one. This up coming season is starting to show some ominous signs. Can Joey Rickard be far behind?

  2. IrishAl81

    March 14, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    There seems to be a lot of angst over Stevie and the other utility candidates. They are what they are, and a valuable component on every team. if Steve can fill a utility role in both the infield and outfield, it opens options for the roster in other areas, perhaps opening a spot for one of the younger players.

    • BrooksPJs

      March 14, 2021 at 3:09 pm

      Perhaps Wilkerson will be a late bloomer like Mike Yastrzemski? Love utility players who have a good attitude like Wilkerson!

  3. willmiranda

    March 14, 2021 at 2:54 pm

    Stevie expresses what seems to be the O’s mantra: I’m doing great, although the numbers don’t indicate it. Will the facts and the feelings ever coincide? He could be the solution to the question of how many pitchers to carry since he can come in and do as well as whoever number 13, 14, or 15 would be. In another article, Hyde said he didn’t have enough innings to get the young pitchers into games; he seems to have enough for Felix, though, and other veterans who are just working themselves into shape.

  4. CalsPals

    March 14, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    Valaika did a commendable job last yr, think he is just what they need, fills more holes (not pitching) than Wilkerson, only really need one, then room to play a youngen, if we’re allowed to say that…go O’s…

  5. Bhoffman1

    March 14, 2021 at 4:18 pm

    He’s now 2 for 19 and exactly what Oriel wrote after three years of rebuilding we are back to Stevie. He may be a nice guy but this team needs players more then nice guys.

    • ClayDal

      March 14, 2021 at 5:14 pm

      Going into today’s game, Mountcastle was 2 for 19 also ( went 2 for 3 today). Not going to panic over Mountcastle. Wilkerson is a utility player who is a long shot to make the team. He’s not on the 40 man roster, so the Orioles would have to remove someone to make room for him. Unless there is a serious injury to an infielder, Wilkerson most likely will be in Bowie April 1st.

    • Bhoffman1

      March 14, 2021 at 5:46 pm

      Where he belongs. Remember he was a embarrassment as a outfielder and just adequate as a infielder who doesn’t hit for much

  6. Bhoffman1

    March 14, 2021 at 5:21 pm

    O’s have made a offer to Franco. Really need a third baseman and a bat. Apparently the Mets and Braves have also made a offer so it’s probably a long shot

  7. Boog Robinson Robinson

    March 14, 2021 at 8:52 pm

    I wanna player everywhere for the Orioles too ….. 🙁

  8. millboy

    March 14, 2021 at 9:12 pm

    I’m not worried about spring training games or stats…it’s a time to get into game shape and work on some things that you might not do during the season… If you’ve ever played sports then you know you can be “feeling”good but not have the stats to back it up right away, it’s a process. Let’s see how they’re doing in June as they start to gel as a team.

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