SARASOTA, Fla. - Mike Wright Jr. worked two innings this afternoon in the Orioles’ exhibition opener against the Rays and left on a high note.
Wright retired the side in order in the second on 11 pitches, eight for strikes. He handled all of the outs - striking out Ryan Schimpf, retiring Johnny Field on a tapper to the mound and catching Justin Williams’ pop up.
Left-hander Chris Lee replaced Wright to begin the top of the third inning with the Rays leading 1-0. Lee loaded the bases with no outs and surrendered a run on a double play.
Wright threw 20 pitches in the top of the first inning while allowing a run, 12 to leadoff hitter Micah Johnson, who fell behind 1-2 before drawing a walk. Joey Wendle punched a single into right field and Johnson scored on Willy Adames’ sacrifice fly to center field.
“I’m featuring a cutter now and (Johnson) fouled off two of them up and in,” Wright said. “I need to be a little more crisp and I think we can roll from there.”
Wright’s fastball was clocked at 92-94 mph on the stadium radar gun.
“Pretty good,” Wright said. “That first batter obviously put a really good at-bat out there, but I felt like I was throwing some pretty good pitches. They just need to be a little bit more crisp and I would have got them.”
Wright kept going back to his cutter, a pitch he threw sporadically in Triple-A.
“Buck (Showalter) said I need to get out lefties, I need to have something for lefties, and I think that cutter is kind of big,” Wright said. “It really complements my sinker.”
In case you haven’t heard, Wright is out of options and seems more relaxed with the growing possibility that he’ll pitch in the majors this year. Let’s play it on a loop.
“I’m out of options and I’m trying to make the team,” he said. “Obviously, in the bullpen or in the rotation, I’m in the big leagues, but things like this are key because I want to be in the rotation. That’s where I feel like I’m best at and that’s where I want to stick at, so that’s what I’ve been working on all offseason. “
Leadoff hitter Tim Beckham got ahead 3-0 in the count and reached on an infield single to shortstop, but Rays starter Yonny Chirinos retired the next three batters. Trey Mancini grounded out, Machado sent a slow roller to the mound and Adam Jones lined to center field.
The Orioles were retired in order in the second, with Chris Davis grounding out, Mark Trumbo flying to deep left-center field and Anthony Santander striking out. They loaded the bases with two outs in the third against reliever Hunter Wood on walks to Caleb Joseph, Mancini and Machado, but Jones struck out swinging.
Santander doubled with two outs in the fourth, but the Orioles continue to trail 2-0.
Lee is expected to begin the season in Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation. He got into immediate trouble today by allowing a double to Johnny Monell and an infield hit to Adam Moore. Johnson walked and Monell scored when the Orioles turned a 4-6-3 double play on Wendle’s grounder.
Davis scooped Machado’s throw in the dirt on Adames’ grounder to save an error and another run from scoring.
Lee stranded Johnny Field after a two-out double in the fourth.
Note: Infielder Éngelb Vielma, who’s been detained in Venezuela while trying to obtain his visa, is flying into Florida later today.
Update: The Orioles still trail 2-0 and they’ve removed all of the starters.
Beckham’s still waiting for a ball to be hit to him after the intrasquad game and five innings of the exhibition opener.
Rule 5 pick Pedro Araujo and Joely Rodríguez each tossed a scoreless inning. Rodriguez was pumping 95 mph fastballs, striking out one and shattering Schimpf’s bat on a grounder. My darkhorse pick. It’s been documented.
Update II: Nick Ciuffo’s two-run single off Jeff Ferrell in the seventh increased the Rays’ lead to 4-0. Ferrell hit the leadoff batter and gave up a double to fuel the rally.
Update III: Kevin Padlo hit a two-run homer off Donnie Hart with the count full to give the Rays a 6-0 lead in the eighth inning.
Update IV: Chance Sisco hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning to help the Orioles avert a shutout, but the Rays won 6-3.