Wilkerson's save earns him spot in Cooperstown
Means dealing with dead arm; Broxton claimed by Mariners
ANAHEIM – Part of the man they call “Dr. Poo Poo” is headed to Cooperstown. On top of owning the only save ever recorded by a position player, Orioles utility man Stevie Wilkerson can now lay claim to one of the unlikeliest, most bizarre small places in the Hall of Fame.
That’s the reality now for Wilkerson, whose historic relief appearance in Thursday’s 10-8 marathon win over the Angels has made him into an overnight sensation. Now it’s going to be immortalized. When the National Baseball Hall of Fame requested permission from Wilkerson for his cap and the ball from the final out of his save this week, Wilkerson happily obliged.
“They asked me what I was willing to give, and I told them they could have anything they want,” Wilkerson said. “It’s pretty cool to have something up there, and I look forward to visiting as soon as I can to take a peek.”
Any future trips to upstate New York will be his second, with Wilkerson saying he’d previously visited Cooperstown once before, as a kid. The incentive then was one of the youth summer ball tournaments the village regularly hosts. He called his more permanent place there "unexpected and kind of unbelievable, really."
“It's crazy," Wilkerson said. “Just to be in the history books of Major League Baseball is crazy.”
As for personal keepsakes, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde gave Wilkerson the lineup sheet from that night, which Wilkerson said he’ll “probably throw in a frame and keep that for my man cave.” Then, of course, there are the memories, which Wilkerson has been asked to relive consistently over the past 48 hours.
Several national media outlets picked up the story after Wilkerson, floating mid-50 mph pitches to the plate, retired the side in order to lock down Baltimore’s 16th-inning victory. He retired Albert Pujols -- himself destined for Cooperstown one day -- for the final out.
A 27-year-old utilityman who appeared in just 16 Major League games before this year, Wilkerson has now made three appearances on the mound this season, earning nicknames from "Dr. Poo Poo" to "Stevie Sliders" to "Wilky Smooth" for his slowball style. Hey, whatever works. He's limited opponents to one run across four innings pitched, good for a 2.25 ERA.
“It’s unique and it’s special, so good for him,” Hyde said. "I hope I never have to use Stevie again [on the mound], to be honest with you. But you never know. The way this year’s gone, it probably will happen [again] at some point.”
A day after landing on the injured list for the second time this season, John Means was slated to undergo an MRI to determine the cause of his left biceps tightness. Speaking at his locker Saturday afternoon, Means said he’s dealing with a “dead-arm feeling” while characterizing the issue as minor.
The Orioles remain hopeful he will miss just one start.
When I let loose, when I throw max effort, I feel a little pull. It’s going to be tight if I keep on throwing, so you might as well attack it now and not worry about it later,” Means said. “I probably could start again, but it’s just one of those things I don’t want lingering. I want to finish the season strong and I want to finish the season healthy.”
In the meantime, the Orioles have not yet determined who will take Means’ vacant spot in the rotation. His absence leaves them needing a starter for Monday in San Diego.
A minor lineup change flipped the positions of Jonathan Villar and Hanser Alberto an hour or so prior to first pitch Saturday. Villar had been slated to play second base, with Alberto serving as the designated hitter. Instead, Villar DH’d and Alberto manned second.
Hyde said the reason was minor leg soreness for Villar, who has appeared in all 104 games this season, starting 101. The speedster played a key role in Baltimore's 8-7 win on Saturday, going 3-for-3 with a home run and a walk.
A trade candidate heading into next week’s July 31 deadline, Villar is hitting .257 with a .737 OPS, 13 homers and 21 steals. He recently broke out of a 4-for-40 funk, homering twice and stealing four bases over the past three games. Villar is owed roughly $1.75 million the rest of this season, arbitration eligible for the third time this winter and under club control through 2020.
When they designated Keon Broxton for assignment last weekend, the Orioles were confident the struggling outfielder would find another opportunity elsewhere. That happened Saturday, when Broxton was claimed off waivers by the Mariners.
Acquired in a trade with the Mets in late May, Broxton hit .204 with a .611 OPS and 49 strikeouts in 37 games for the Orioles. Wilkerson and Anthony Santander have gotten the bulk of center field reps since his departure.
When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.