Breaking camp as the fifth starter in a rotation already creates a layer of uncertainty. When does he debut? How does the rainout day following the opener potentially influence him? How often is he going to be pushed back or skipped?
Wright steps on the mound tonight at Minute Maid Park, in those shoes, focused only on his current assignment against the World Series champions. The Astros will receive their rings in the continuation of a celebration that began yesterday. Wright just wants a chance..
“There’s definitely going to be some energy there, but I don’t think it will be negative energy for us,” Wright said. “Any energy is good energy and I think our team will definitely feed off that.”
Wright hasn’t pitched since March 22 against the Red Sox in Sarasota, when he allowed seven runs (six earned) and 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings.
“It was a pretty good time ago, but the one day I was in the bullpen and I still had a couple work days,” he said. “Tried to stay on a pretty steady routine, come in and get my work in, throw my bullpens. Obviously, the bullpens are a little more max effort than a normal bullpen. Yeah, I feel like I’m in a really good spot right now.”
The countdown is on for how long Wright is in the rotation and he knows it. Cobb could join the Orioles by April 14, pushing Wright to the bullpen or perhaps forcing the Orioles to place him on waivers because he’s out of minor league options.
There’s no obvious place for him as a reliever while the Orioles carry Rule 5 picks Nestor Cortes Jr. and Pedro Araujo. Miguel Castro failed to win the fifth starter’s job, but he’s returned to his middle relief role.
“My only job right now is to help us win,” Wright said. “These couple starts I’m going to get and from there it’s not up to me. It’s up to, obviously, the guys above me. But I’m real excited to be a part of this team and what we have going on.”
Wright allowed 15 runs (14 earned) and 26 hits in 19 innings in his six spring appearances, the last two underwhelming but not enough to sabotage his efforts to make the rotation. Manager Buck Showalter chose to give opening day starter Dylan Bundy an extra day’s rest after the right-hander tossed seven scoreless innings against the Twins.
So much for pushing back or skipping Wright.
“Bundy had such a great start, I thought for sure he’d be coming back on his fifth day, but it’s actually good that he gets that extra day’s rest,” Wright said. “I’m definitely excited to go out there and compete, and obviously I’m going to be competing against one of the best lineups in baseball, so that’s definitely exciting.”
Factor in how the Astros are starting former Cy Young winner and six-time All-Star Justin Verlander and there’s very little happening to make it feel like just another start for Wright.
“Obviously, they’re throwing an ace on many people’s teams, but I like our lineup,” he said. “I think it’s just as good as anybody else in the league. As much as I’m going to have to compete, he’s going to have to do the same thing. It’s exciting.”
Wright will have to figure out a way to defend himself against left-handers, who are batting .328 against him in the majors. Right-handers are hitting .247.
In his one career start against the Astros, Wright allowed five runs and eight hits over five innings in a June 2, 2015 loss in Houston. Evan Gattis and Luis Valbuena hit home runs in the third.
Verlander tossed six scoreless innings against the Rangers in his debut and is 10-5 with a 3.71 ERA and 1.174 WHIP in 19 career starts versus the Orioles.
The current group is batting .216 against him, but that includes Mark Trumbo, who’s on the disabled list and owns only two hits in 15 at-bats with six strikeouts when facing Verlander.
Chris Davis, who batted leadoff again last night, is 7-for-32 (.219) with 17 strikeouts against Verlander. Colby Rasmus is 4-for-21 (.190) with a double, home run and seven strikeouts. Jonathan Schoop is 3-for-17 (.176) with two home runs and five strikeouts. Pedro Álvarez is 2-for-14 (.143) with a double and seven strikeouts.
Tim Beckham is 3-for-3 with a home run. Does he move up in the order tonight? Does a small sample size take on a larger life against Verlander?