Batting practice usually gets interesting for Class AA Bowie infielder Kris Wilken after he is done taking his swings. That is when he heads to the outfield for some fielding work, just in case he is ever needed there.
The versatile Wilken has played first base, third base and in the outfield for Bowie this year. He spent time at all four infield positions, and in left and right field in a two-week span for Class A Frederick last year.
"During batting practice, I spend most of my time trying to get the feel for" the outfield, Wilken said. "When I get out there in games, I tell whoever is in center, 'I have the line, you have everything else.' "
His outfield work came in handy in May, when starting outfielder Val Majewski missed seven days with a strained oblique muscle. Bowie had only three full-time outfielders on its roster and Wilken played two games in the outfield in Majewski's absence.
The 25-year-old's adaptability is nothing new. He was a standout pitcher at Eldorado (N.M.) High -- he went a combined 15-0 as a junior and senior -- and he played catcher and all four infield positions on his off-days from pitching.
Wilken was named Albuquerque's best hitter, best pitcher, best fielding second baseman and best fielding third baseman his senior year of high school, in 1997.
He eschewed being a sixth-round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox that year and attended the University of Houston. The Orioles drafted him in the 12th round in 2000, following his junior year of college.
"Wilky is a team player," Bowie Manager Dave Trembley said. "He has saved our pitching staff from a lot of potential big innings with his defense."
And that has been part of his plan all along.
"I figure if I can play a bunch of different positions, I can make myself pretty valuable," Wilken said. "If I can do that, plus hit a little bit, I think I can stay in the game."