Mike Wright Jr. was in the Orioles bullpen and come-to-the-rescue mode last night with Dylan Bundy failing to retire a batter. Wright covered 4 2/3 innings and threw 80 pitches before Rule 5 pick Pedro Araujo replaced him and let an inherited runner score on Mike Moustakas’ two-run shot to center field.
Wright’s extended appearance likely impacts his candidacy to start Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Rays. The Orioles could consider someone else in the bullpen or shift their focus to the minors.
Jimmy Yacabonis pitched Monday for Triple-A Norfolk and would be working on normal rest if he’s recalled. He’s converting from reliever to starter.
Moustakas’ second homer of the night came on the first pitch from Araujo, making his first appearance since surrendering Khris Davis’ walk-off home run in the 12th inning Saturday night in Oakland.
Two pitches, two balls that cleared the fence.
No further proof needed that making the jump from the Carolina League to the majors is treacherous. A 1.81 ERA at Myrtle Beach can enhance your prospect status, but the lineups he’s facing now aren’t interested in his resume.
The Orioles and the argument can go two ways here.
Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr. was designated for assignment and returned to the Yankees because he struggled to a point where the club no longer could carry him in the bullpen. Araujo’s ERA climbed to 6.20 after he surrendered three runs in 2 1/3 innings. It’s a risky proposition to put him in tight spots and there’s still a lot of season left.
On the flipside, the Orioles are 8-27 and facing the prospect of becoming sellers with Memorial Day the “marker” for making such decisions. A contending team can argue that it’s death to carry a Rule 5 pick in its bullpen. The 1997 wire-to-wire Orioles traded pitcher Mike Johnson to the Expos on July 31. But the 2018 club could justify holding onto Araujo and keeping him in the system next year if it truly believes that his stuff eventually will play on the biggest stage.
Araujo was asked in Oakland what he learned from the walk-offs and other difficult outings, including the ninth inning homer from the Tigers’ Dixon Machado that ended an April 18 game at Comerica Park.
“I think the biggest takeaway for me is to be more consistent with my pitches, to locate better all of my pitches,” he said via translator Ramón Alarcón. “I think the hitter (Davis) made a good adjustment and hit a quality pitch, so just try to be more consistent and better location of the ball.
“I feel healthy right now and positive mentally, in a good spot right now, so just wanting to go out there whenever the opportunity comes again and execute better pitches.”
It happened in spurts last night. Araujo struck out three straight batters after Moustakas’ home run. But three straight singles produced two more runs.
Araujo’s bullpen mates offer advice and encouragement. They haven’t all been Rule 5 picks, of course, but they know how a young reliever can get overwhelmed.
“They’ve said to continue to work hard, keep my head up,” he said. “It’s part of the game and hopefully there’s some positive outcome from this.”
Mychal Givens, presented his own set of challenges back in the day while converting from shortstop to pitcher, can sympathize with Araujo while also backing him.
“I know how it feels,” he said. “Not knowing how it feels to go from A ball to the big leagues, but trying to be established and being around the great players like Darren O’Day, Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter when he was here. It was a great veteran presence and I try to use that advice that they gave me to help me be an established bullpen guy in the big leagues to help him.
“It’s baseball. He just needs to be himself and have fun and be happy to be in the big leagues and go out there and make pitches. He has big league stuff and it showed in spring training and it showed a little bit when he’s been pitching here.
“It’s the same thing when I broke in. Just having confidence in adjusting to the nature of the routine.”