Wilkerson is Orioles' man of many gloves

Multiple O's enter spring camp eyeing positional flexibility as key

February 17th, 2019

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Steve Wilkerson may be a clubhouse manager's worst nightmare and a manager's dream. For someone planning to move around, the speedy 27-year-old surely doesn't travel light.

On the heels of a brief big league cameo last year, Wilkerson arrived at Orioles camp Sunday set to battle for a super-utility role. But even that might not capture the scope of it. What exactly do you call a player with 10 gloves?

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"It's to be determined," Wilkerson said. "I haven't solidified myself as anything yet."

That makes Wilkerson just one of the guys at Orioles' camp, where traditional labels are denounced and positions come with particularly porous borders. He's played second, he's played short. He's played first and third base, left and right field -- and lugs a catcher's mitt around, to boot. He's also not alone in the clubhouse, as the Orioles spent this winter stocking up on players with an eye toward roster fluidity above all else.

The Orioles are far from the only team to target versatility, with big league clubs across the competitive spectrum valuing flexibility and depth. But their scattershot approach might be the most extreme example yet. And the sheer number of options makes potential roster combinations virtually endless.

"We have so much uncertainty. I have no idea what our roster will look like a month from now," manager Brandon Hyde said. "We'll put the pieces of the puzzle together as we go along and see what fits."

All told, 23 of the 24 non-catcher position players in O's camp come with pro experience at more than one position. Ten have moved between the infield and outfield (and another, No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, , may have to). There are 14 infielders in camp and at least 10 can play up the middle.

Even recent addition , an everyday shortstop his entire career, won't be limited to the position where he's spent 11 Major League seasons. Outfielder hasn't ventured onto the infield grass since 2014, but says "there isn't really much on the baseball field I'm scared to do," and "whatever they ask me to do, to create opportunity and competition, I'm all for it."

"I want them coming in here thinking they're baseball players," Hyde said. "I'm not promising anything to anybody at this point."

Around the horn

• Hampered by a bout of bronchitis for much of the last week, was back on the field Sunday. The O's first baseman did conditioning drills and took on-field batting practice in what amounted to his first workout of the spring. He is slated to participate in the team's first official full-squad workout Monday.

's arrival at Ed Smith Stadium left three players unaccounted for on the team's official report day. All three of the absences -- Escobar (late signing), right-hander (illness) and catcher (visa issues) are excused in the eyes of Orioles management.

• Though he inked a Minor League deal with hopes of winning a spot on the Opening Day roster, Young noted an added benefit of signing with the rebuilding Orioles: The chance to mentor young players. The 10-year veteran called doing so "a passion of mine," strong enough to potentially translate to a post-playing career in coaching.

"I'd definitely consider it," Young said. "Even if they don't ask me to [mentor], I'll do that naturally. I love this game of baseball, and I want to see everybody reach their true potential when they're out between the lines."