Orioles pitching prospect Mike Wright certainly advanced his career during the 2013 season. He improved his stats, extended his season innings limit, started and won the Eastern League All-Star game, and capped his year with a big O's honor.
On Sept. 8, Wright was named the Orioles minor league Pitcher of the Year, taking the Jim Palmer Award.
The 23-year-old right-hander went 11-3 with a 3.26 ERA in 143 2/3 innings for the Double-A Bowie Baysox. On the final day of the minor league regular season, he moved up to Norfolk and pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings for the Tides in his Triple-A debut with Norfolk clinging to playoff hopes.
"I feel like I definitely took a big step forward this year," Wright said during September. "I felt like, even when I had a bad outing, I didn't let it carry over and was more consistent. That is what I tried to work on this year.
"Tried to have the same mental approach to every game, focus like it's a playoff game and believe in my stuff," he said after finishing tied for first in the Eastern League in ERA and fifth in strikeout ratio per nine innings among league starters at 8.52.
Wright, who went 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA in his final five Bowie starts, further cemented his status this season as one of the Orioles' top 10 prospects and he's on the big club's radar. Manager Buck Showalter mentioned him a few times during pregame press conferences.
"It's exciting," Wright said. "My ultimate goal is to be there. To put up good numbers here is exciting as I look to next spring and next year."
Did any of Wright's pitches make a big improvement during the 2013 season?
"Everything. Honestly, this year has been my best year. Last year, I struggled with my slider and it's been good this year. I've learned to manipulate it a lot more than ever before and that is a pitch I've come a long way with this year," he said.
Wright pitches at 92 and 93 mph and touched 94 and 95 mph this year with his fastball velocity.
Drafted in the third round out of East Carolina in 2011, Wright pitched 45 2/3 innings that summer after the draft. That was bumped to 108 2/3 innings in 2012 and 150 1/3 innings this season.
He said he has benefited from the club's pitching development program and can now repeat his delivery more often.
"When you go out there, you don't have to worry what your delivery is going to be like because you work on it every single day," he said. "All you have to do is think what pitches you will throw. You don't have to worry about, 'Is my foot doing this? Am I on balance?' It's there because you practice it every day. Makes it easier to focus on the mental side and your approach rather than mechanics."
On the day the O's honored Wright as their Pitcher of the Year in the minors, vice president Dan Duquette talked about the right-hander.
"Mike Wright had a terrific year and came into his own this year," Duquette said. "He was one of the top pitchers in the Eastern League. He really learned how to pitch with his fastball. We promoted him to Triple-A, and he did a great job for them that last day of the season. He did a great job, and he's coming, he's coming quick. This is a nice recognition for him."
Wright was getting better as the 2013 season was getting longer and was impressive in that final day start for the Tides. He figures to be in that Triple-A rotation next year.
"I just really wanted to leave a good taste in the Orioles' mouth and finish really strong this season," Wright said.