ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Stevie Wilkerson was 10 years old when he last visited Cooperstown, N.Y., stopping at the Baseball Hall of Fame with his father, brother and the travel ball team he was playing in a tournament with.
When the 27-year-old Orioles outfielder returns, he might be able to visit his own exhibit.
After Wilkerson became the first position player in major league history to record a save by pitching a perfect 16th inning in Thursday’s 10-8 victory over the Los Angeles Angels, Wilkerson sent the cap he wore and the ball he threw — never doing so harder than 56 mph — to Cooperstown.
“They asked me what I was willing to give, and I told them they could have anything they want,” Wilkerson said Saturday. “It’s pretty cool to have something up there, and I look forward to visiting as soon as I can to take a peek.”
Wilkerson’s first two pitching appearances for Baltimore came in blowout losses, but his third led to a sharp spike in national popularity. He appeared on MLB Network Radio on Saturday, suggesting his nickname as a pitcher should be “Stevie Coop” for his spot in the Hall of Fame. It’s far superior to his current title of “Dr. Poo Poo,” assigned after he said his pitches in his first outing were “poo poo” before manager Brandon Hyde supplied the honorary doctorate.
“Is that how he’s going to sign it?” Hyde quipped regarding the hat headed to Cooperstown.
Perhaps most surprising about Wilkerson’s success in three appearances on the mound, allowing one run in four innings, is his only experience pitching before this month was a lone inning in high school. But Wilkerson has pitched so effectively that a reporter asked Hyde on Saturday whether he would consider using him as a regular reliever. Hyde couldn’t help but chuckle.
“I hope I never have to use Stevie again, to be honest with you,” Hyde said. “But you never know. It probably will happen [again]. The way this year’s gone, probably will happen at some point.
“He’s awesome, and he’s confident. It takes a really confident person to be able to flip up 55 mph cheeseburgers up there and not have any fear with the lead in the 16th inning and enjoy it. He’s got the perfect mentality to do something like that.”
Hyde gave Wilkerson his lineup card from the 16-inning game before Friday’s contest. With the ball and cap off to the Hall of Fame, the lineup became Wilkerson’s lone keepsake. He plans to frame it to hang in his “man cave.”
His phone was stormed with texts from friends and family in the wake of his historic save, though he said no one too surprising has reached out.
“I heard from a couple of my college coaches that said they were kicking themselves for not throwing me on the mound in college, but that’s about it,” Wilkerson said. “The night that it happened, we didn’t know that it was going to be baseball history.
“Just to be in the history books of Major League Baseball is crazy.”
Means to undergo ‘procedural’ MRI
All-Star left-hander John Means first felt the biceps tightness that landed him on the 10-day injured list Friday during his between-starts bullpen session before Wednesday’s start against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The outing was his shortest since permanently joining the rotation in late April, allowing three runs in 3 1/3 innings. But Means expects his time on the IL to provide the rest he needs while missing only one turn through the Orioles rotation. He will undergo an MRI, but Hyde called it “procedural.”
“It was sort of like a dead arm feeling,” Means said. “I’m going to miss one start and be good to go. I honestly probably could start again. It’s just one of those things I don’t want it lingering and I want to attack as fast as I can because I want to finish the season strong and I want to finish the season healthy.”
This is Means’ second IL stint of his rookie season, after he missed one start with a shoulder strain in late June. Although he never missed a start in his minor league career, Means is not concerned about his recent injuries.
“Up here, it’s just high-intensity innings,” Means said. “Throwing 100 innings up here is like throwing 200 in the minor leagues. It’s one of those things that I need to learn as I go and experience it, and I’m glad I’m experiencing it now, those high-stress innings. It’ll be good for the future.”
Around the horn
Mark Trumbo, rehabilitating with Triple-A Norfolk, hasn’t played since homering Wednesday because he is taking a “breather,” Hyde said. Hyde remains hopeful Trumbo will play for the Orioles this year, but his surgically repaired right knee continues to not feel right. ... Outfielder Keon Broxton, designated for assignment July 21, was claimed off waivers by the Seattle Mariners. … Jonathan Villar was originally scheduled to start at second base Saturday, but moved to designated hitter because he is dealing with some minor leg soreness. Villar, who has played in every Orioles game, stole four bases in the first two games of the series.