Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz
Milwaukee’s stellar season still left the Brewers a tad short of being part of the baseball’s postseason party, but Aaron Wilkerson‘s long-awaited audition in the major leagues three years after he left the American Association was just dandy.
In fact, this 28-year-old was so solid it undoubtedly helps the righthander and very possibly the Brew Crew’s search for more pitching for next season.
Wilkerson came back from Tommy John surgery and nearly two years of being off the diamond to make 16 starts in the American Association (Grand Prairie) in the ’13 and ’14 seasons before Boston obtained his contract.
He got his first major league opportunity in September after going 11-4 for Class AA Biloxi this season, and throwing seven innings of no-hit ball for Colorado Springs during the Triple-A playoffs. And when Milwaukee was eliminated from any chance of the postseason one day before the National League season ended manager Craig Counsell chose the 6-foot-3 hurler to start the season finale against St. Louis.
Wilkerson earned his first major league victory, 6-1, with seven more innings, this time holding the Cardinals without a base-runner until another onetime Independent Baseball player (Jose Martinez) picked up a pinch single. He gave up only one run and two hits while striking out five and not issuing any walks in his stint and finished his three outings with the parent Brewers with a 3.48 earned run average–only slightly above his Biloxi mark of 3.16–and posted a .167 opponent batting average for 10.1 innings.
“It’s almost unreal right now, my first major-league victory,” the Hewitt, Texas, native told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It’s just setting in. They actually told me yesterday (Saturday) I’d be starting if we didn’t have an opportunity for the wild card.”
Next season? “He should compete for a major-league role in spring training,” predicted CBSSports.com.
As for the months until next February, Wilkerson has memories and souvenirs. “I have the lineup card and all that stuff (from the finale game),” he told MLB.com.
Gailen Still Puts Up Good Numbers
Blake Gailen is remembered around the American Association for the magical run he had with the Lincoln Saltdogs back in 2011 when he hit .406 and had a fabulous .479 on-base percentage. The lefty hitter out of California had 113 hits, an average of 1.64 per game, in the 69 contests he played. He also had been in the league three years earlier, hitting .266 in 88 games for Wichita, where he even pitched 13 times (1-3, 4.66).
Now 32, Gailen had his best offensive production in a few seasons after signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization June 29. He hit.300 with another good OBP, .369, in 49 games for Double-A Tulsa, helping the Drillers get all the way to the clinching Texas League championship game, a 1-0 defeat to four-time champion Midland.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at traditional book-buying sites, or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.
Photo: Vilip Dishwanat/Getty Images