ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Stevie Wilkerson walked into the Orioles’ clubhouse about an hour and a half before Friday night’s game and only about 15 hours since he had left it as the first major league position player to record a save. In true pitcher’s fashion, the center fielder was batting ninth in the lineup.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde greeted him and handed him the lineup sheet he had used in the dugout during the night before’s 16-inning 10-8 victory over the Los Angeles Angels, a game in which Wilkerson started in center field but became the 20th pitcher used by either team in a 6-hour, 19-minute contest.
“I don’t know if you’ll ever see that again,” Hyde said before Friday’s game. “The guy’s got a lot of confidence. When I looked down to him at the end of the 15th, he kind of gave me a wink, like, ‘I got this.’ "
A member of the Orioles’ public relations staff then asked Wilkerson whether he had any memorabilia from the historic accomplishment to send to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. They settled on a cap Wilkerson wore as he retired all three batters he faced, throwing no pitches above 56 mph.
He had told teammate Trey Mancini his only pitching experience before three appearances this month was an inning in high school.
“It’s pretty unreal what he did,” Mancini said. “It was honestly special to be a part of that yesterday, something that’s never been done in MLB before.
“Stevie’s one of the funniest guys I’ve played with, one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever had, so there’s nobody better to get that recognition that he’s getting right now.”
In the early hours of Friday morning, the Orioles celebrated their strangest and most exceptional victory of the season.
But come Friday afternoon, the implications of such a game set in for both teams.
The losing pitcher of the game, Los Angeles’ Griffin Canning, had been the Angels’ scheduled starter for the second leg of the teams’ four-game series.
Needing enough arms to survive even nine innings Friday, the Orioles added right-handers Evan Phillips and Dillon Tate to the roster. To create roster space, they placed All-Star John Means on the 10-day injured list with a left biceps strain and optioned lefty Tanner Scott to Triple-A after he allowed three runs in the 15th inning. Injured right-hander Nate Karns was activated from the 60-day IL and was designated for assignment.
Means to IL
Hyde said the Orioles’ concerns regarding Means began during Wednesday’s start against the Arizona Diamondbacks when he allowed three runs in 3 1/3 innings, ending his streak of 15 straight starts of at least five frames. The Orioles’ roster moves came about an hour before Friday’s first pitch as the team awaited an update from Means after his pregame throwing.
Means, who leads the Orioles with a 3.12 ERA as a rookie, is expected to only miss one turn through the rotation, said Hyde, who added he wasn’t sure who would take the lefty’s place in the rotation.
“I don’t think it’s any red flags there,” Hyde said. "It’s his rookie year in the big leagues. Even though he has a track record of starting, the intensity level’s different here. I think he’s still getting used to the major league grind of being a starting pitcher and this is part of it.
“We obviously care a ton about John Means. He’s a big part of us going forward, and we want to do everything that’s right for him. We’d love to see him finish the year strong.”
Tate set to make debut
After burning through all of their relievers in the 16-inning game, the Orioles promoted Phillips from Triple-A Norfolk and Tate from Double-A Bowie to ensure they had enough arms for Friday night.
Tate’s first appearance for the Orioles will be his major league debut, and it might come at the ballpark closest to his hometown of Claremont, Calif., less than an hour from Anaheim.
He was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of California Santa Barbara and was acquired from the New York Yankees in last summer’s Zack Britton trade. He had a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings across 15 relief appearance after moving to Bowie’s bullpen. But as a former starter, he’s capable of providing length out of the bullpen should the Orioles need him.
That’s a likelihood Friday after all of the Orioles relievers used in the marathon threw at least 19 pitches in their outings except Wilkerson, who of course is a position player, and left-hander Richard Bleier, who has already pitched three straight games.
Around the horn
Hyde said he and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias decided it was best to “move on” from Karns, who was the club’s lone major league free-agent signing this past offseason but hadn’t pitched for them since April because of a forearm strain. ... Some Orioles got better sleep than others. Mancini said he managed eight hours by sleeping from 4 a.m. to noon, but infielder Hanser Alberto got woken up by a false alarm on his floor of the team hotel at 10:30 a.m. and was unable to fall back asleep.