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Tyler Wilson leading strikeout-heavy rotation in Triple-A Norfolk

Baltimore Orioles pitchers Mike Wright (left) and Tyler Wilson throw at the same time during spring training at the Orioles' spring facility Saturday, Feb 21, 2015.

After a recent start made by Tyler Wilson in Triple-A Norfolk, Orioles manager Buck Showalter spoke of how the report from his coaching staff down there included a note about how Wilson's stuff would have worked at the highest level.

Wilson, the organization's minor league pitcher of the year in 2014, knows that those starts can only help his cause as he looks to break through onto the Orioles' 25-man roster. But he won't let himself get swept up in that. Too many players knocking on the door of the big leagues have, and it rarely serves their purpose.

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"It's great to hear some positive affirmation in that regard from time to time, but that's not what I'm caught up on," Wilson said Monday in a telephone interview. "There are variables that are out of your control, and any time you hear those things, you can kind of let your mind wander."

He hasn't pitched like he's distracted so far. Entering his fifth start of the season Wednesday, Wilson has a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings, with 22 strikeouts and just four walks. He allowed four runs in his first start of the season, and just three since. His 22 strikeouts are tied for the team lead.

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But given the full rotation in Baltimore — and Kevin Gausman waiting in the bullpen — Wilson knows there's no use gazing at a big league opportunity that he can't control. But in facing the veteran hitters in the International League for a second year, he can at least try to simulate the experience.

"In general, what you can take from more advanced hitters, guys that are older, that have a lot more games under their belt is that they all have a very strict plan that they adhere to," Wilson said. "They have their approach that they're trying to beat me in a certain way, and it's a lot more of a thinking-man's game up here. It's more of a chess match and you have to make more quality pitches, you don't get away with mistakes up here and just like happens in the game in general, hitters are going to hit bad pitches. It's a process of becoming more consistent and making more better pitches at a more consistent rate every start."

Brothers in strikeouts

Wilson isn't the only Tides pitcher striking out batters at a high clip. Right next to him with 22 strikeouts is Mike Wright. Strikeouts accounted for 10 of his 12 outs in a no-decision Sunday.

Right-hander Zach Davies (9.6 K/9), and relievers Steve Johnson (13.1 K/9), Oliver Drake (16 K/9), and Cesar Cabral (9.9 K/9) have all fanned over a batter per inning through the young season.

Overall, Norfolk is one strikeout behind Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the league lead with 157 as a team, though it has played one game fewer than the Yankees' affiliate.

Clevenger expanding horizons before injury

With catcher Matt Wieters on the comeback trail and Ryan Lavarnway and Caleb Joseph getting the playing time ahead of him with the big league club, catcher Steve Clevenger might have to find other ways to crack the Orioles' bench.

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Clevenger played second base for the Tides on Wednesday, April 22, his first appearance at the position since 2006. He played nine innings there, and perhaps defying the baseball adage that the ball will find you, Clevenger didn't have an opportunity in the field that day.

Two days later, he went on the disabled list with a bruised thumb.

Clevenger played three games at first base with the Orioles in 2014, and a pair of games at third base for the Chicago Cubs in 2013. He hadn't played second base since rookie-ball with Boise in 2006, when he played 63 games at second base.

For a player whose bat is probably his carrying tool at this point, versatility like this is a way to get it into the lineup. Clevenger is showing that part of his game is strong thus far with a .317/.408/.463 line, with three doubles, a home run, and six RBIs in 13 games for the Tides this year.

When he returns, Clevenger will likely have to keep hitting like that to stay in the conversation for a spot with the Orioles, but the positional versatility certainly will help.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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