It was during the third round of the First-Year Player Draft in June and East Carolina pitcher Mike Wright was wondering when his name would be called.
Then he heard his sister raise her voice and he knew.
“Tell you the truth, I didn’t hear my name called,” the 21-year-old right-hander said. “My sister and I were watching on the computer and hers was a little faster. So I heard her scream and that’s when I knew. It was a really good feeling.”
It was the Orioles that selected Wright with the 94th overall selection. After a season where he went 6-4 with a 2.79 ERA over 100 innings for ECU, Wright would now get a chance to play pro ball.
Wright thought he could be as high as a third-round selection.
“I heard a lot of top-fives and some teams said top-10,” Wright said. “I didn’t really talk a lot to the Orioles right before the draft, but they were talking to my advisor.”
Not long after signing, Wright was Aberdeen-bound, set to join the Short-Season Single-A IronBirds. In seven starts there, he went 2-1 with a 3.77 ERA. Over 31 innings, Wright allowed 29 hits with six walks and 29 strikeouts. He had a 2.33 ground-to-air out ratio and a .248 batting average against.
“It’s the same game, but if you make a mistake they will make you pay here more than in college,” Wright said of his first professional outings.
Wright, from Laurinburg, North Carolina, is known as a sinker, slider-type pitcher that pitches to contact and gets a lot of ground ball outs. But he can pitch into the low- or mid-90’s with his fastball.
“In my college season I hit 96 a lot of times,” Wright said recently at Ripken Stadium. “Here, I hit 94 a few times. I like to throw a lot of fastballs. I’m not a strikeout pitcher, I like to get a lot of groundballs. I’m still developing my slider and I feel once I get that I will be able to move up pretty well. But right now, my changeup is my second-best pitch.”
After giving up just two earned runs over 16 innings in his last three Aberdeen starts, Wright moved to Single-A Delmarva a few days ago. He made his first South Atlantic League start on Tuesday, giving up seven hits and five runs in 3 1/3 innings against Lakewood.
Wright said he is taking some time to get used to pitching every fifth day in the pros as opposed to once a week in college.
Over 100 innings with East Carolina this past season as a junior, he gave up 81 hits with 30 walks, 75 strikeouts, just two homers and a .224 average against.
“I’m trying to get my slider more consistent and it has the chance to be my out pitch,” Wright said. “But, I have to learn how to use it correctly. I just need to throw it more.”
So far, he said pro ball is not that much different than college.
“I heard a lot of people from college say it’s not the same and you might not get along with your teammates as well, but to tell you the truth, I’m having just as much fun here as I did in college. It’s a great group of guys here,” he said of his IronBirds teammates.
Wright was not sure if he would pitch any winter ball after this season, but he does have one goal for his winter workouts.
“Right now, I’m 195 pounds and I want to get over 200,” Wright said. “I can afford to get a little bigger and continue to keep my arm strong.”