After making his major league debut as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s 3-0 interleague win over the Washington Nationals, utility man Steve Wilkerson received his first big league start in Thursday night’s series finale at Nationals Park, playing at third base and batting eighth.

“It’s really exciting,” Wilkerson said. “When I got to the stadium today and saw my name in the lineup, it’s really [exciting]. … It was really nice to get my feet wet [Wednesday], eases a little bit of the anxiety and a little comforting. To have that last night and to be in there today, it’s exciting.”

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Wilkerson entered the game with one out in the ninth inning as part of a double switch and didn’t get a fair ball hit his way in the final five plate appearances.

Wilkerson’s family attended Wednesday’s game but left during the 2-hour, 43-minute rain delay, so they didn’t see him make his debut and they weren’t at Thursday’s game, but Wilkerson expects a larger contingent during this weekend’s series at SunTrust Park, which is just 20 minutes away from Wilkerson’s hometown of Marietta, Ga.

“Yeah, a lot of friends and family in Atlanta,” he said. “I grew up not too far from the stadium, a lot of people down there.”

Showalter on Tillman: ‘You get stretched out if you get people out’

Right-hander Chris Tillman, who began his minor league rehabilitation assignment Wednesday at Short-A Aberdeen, will continue to build his innings count, which Showalter said will happen naturally if he gets hitters out.

Tillman, who went on the 10-day disabled list May 11 with a back injury, struggled in the first inning of his rehab debut Wednesday, needing 35 pitches to get through the opening frame. He allowed three runs on two hits, two walks and two wild pitches in the first, then retired the side on eight pitches.

“You get stretched out if you get people out,” Showalter said. “You can pitch six, seven innings if you’re getting people out. It’s kind of how it works. It’s hard to get stretched out when you can’t get through a couple innings. Chris is capable of doing that. They’re going to take it with a normal progression, but it’s going to move quickly if he can answer the task that’s ahead of him.”

Tillman is expected to make his next minor league rehab start Monday at Low-A Delmarva — an outing that will likely be capped at four innings, 65 pitches — and then make the jump to Triple-A Norfolk in his third start, Showalter said.

Álvarez accepts outright assignment

Designated hitter Pedro Álvarez, who was designated for assignment Tuesday, remained in the organization, accepting an outright assignment to Norfolk.

Álvarez, who was mostly used in a DH role, was designated to make room for Wilkerson to give the Orioles added defensive substitution options as the team embarked on six games in National League parks.

Even before then, Álvarez’s role was reduced gradually, especially since the return of Mark Trumbo from the DL ate into his DH at-bats. He made just two starts after May 29 and was 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts over that span.

He opened the season hitting .308/.471/.615 in his first 14 games but batted just .141 in his next 31 appearances.

Around the horn

Outfielder Ryan McKenna was promoted from High-A Frederick to Double-A Bowie on Thursday after a first half of the season in which he hit .377/.467/.556 with 18 doubles, two triples, eight homers and 37 RBIs in 67 games with the Keys. McKenna had a 1.250 OPS with eight extra-base hits (four doubles, a triple and three homers) in 16 games in June. … Left-handed reliever Richard Bleier was transferred to the 60-day DL to make 40-man roster space for outfielder Colby Rasmus.

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