Wright: “Got to keep the ball in the park” (O’s lose 5-3)

SARASOTA, Fla. - Mike Wright’s late push to be included in the Orioles rotation needs more muscle.

Wright finished strong today by retiring the split-squad Yankees in order in the fifth inning, but he served up three home runs and the Orioles trail 4-1 in the seventh at Ed Smith Stadium.

Luke Voit hit a two-run homer to left-center field with the count full in the first inning and flied to the right field fence in the fifth. Miguel Andújar and Zack Zehner led off the third and fourth, respectively, with tape-measure shots to left.

Pedro Araujo worked a scoreless sixth after Wright surrendered four runs and eight hits with no walks and two strikeouts. A 10-pitch fifth left the right-hander’s total at 75, including 48 strikes.

“Got to keep the ball in the park,” Wright said. “Other than that, I thought it was a pretty solid outing. I was glad I got through five, finally stretched past three. They’re a good hitting team, even though that’s obviously not their starting lineup per se. But still a lot of good guys in there.”

Wright-Delivers-White-Sidebar.jpgWright hadn’t allowed a run in his first 10 innings before the Yankees scored twice Tuesday night in 2 2/3 innings in Tampa. He’s surrendered 14 hits in his last two starts totaling 7 2/3 innings.

“It’s just baseball,” Wright said. “I’m probably executing pitches a little bit better now than I was even then. Obviously, the hitters are getting their timing up and some of the big guys are starting to swing and starting to see it and that’s just the biggest difference.

“Today sucks giving up three runs, giving up all those hits. It’s the second outing in a row I’ve given up a lot of hits and the last two outings have probably been two of the best I’ve felt, executing well. But just moving forward, the season’s about to start and there’s going to be a different mentality, a different adrenaline. The guys are going to have a lot more energy and it’s going to be a good thing rolling forward.”

Wright, David Hess and left-hander Josh Rogers are among the pitchers vying for the fourth spot in the rotation. The Orioles don’t need a fifth starter until April 3.

Hess started Friday against the Twins in Fort Myers and allowed nine runs and nine hits - including four homers - in 2 2/3 innings. Rogers replaced him and strung together three scoreless innings before serving up back-to-back homers.

As Zehner rounded the bases today, Wright kept slamming his glove against his left thigh in anger.

More solid contact.

“A 3-1 fastball probably isn’t going to be the pitch that you throw in the AL East very often, or just across the big leagues in general,” he said. “It was just a stupid pitch and poorly executed in the same sense.

“I’m going to have 3-1 counts. That’s just the bottom line. It’s just how you get out of them, how you approach them. A walk in that situation wouldn’t have been the end of the world. I’ve just got to be a little better at executing the pitch and the selection.”

Asked whether he’s secured a starting spot, Wright replied, “I’ve never secured anything at any point.”

“There’s a while before we need a fifth starter,” he said. “My mentality is to get outs on opening day.”

The Orioles haven’t done much offensively today, with Joey Rickard’s leadoff double in the second the only hit until Jesús Sucre led off the sixth with a single. Jonathan Villar doubled and Alcides Escobar’s ground ball reduced the lead to 4-1.

Escobar took over the designated hitter slot from Mark Trumbo, who grounded twice to short.

Chris Davis has lined to left-center field, walked with the count full and lined to right.

Update: Carlos Perez hit a leadoff home run in the eighth to reduce the lead to 4-2.

Update II: Davis’ two-out RBI single cut the lead to 4-3.

Final update: Miguel Castro allowed his first spring run in a 5-3 loss to the Yankees.

Castro also will pitch Monday in Lakeland to go back-to-back.

Here’s manager Brandon Hyde on Wright:

“I thought they came out swinging the bats aggressive on him. Just got hurt a few times falling behind in the count, got a little predictable at times and they just took advantage of it. He’s got a really good changeup. I’d like to see him utilize it a little bit more, keep guys off balance. But he got five innings in, got his pitch count up, so productive from that standpoint.”

Rickard went 2-for-3 and is batting .405.

“He’s having a great camp,” Hyde said. “I like Joey’s game. Obviously, he’s swinging the bat well, but he’s a good outfielder, can play three spots. A really good baserunner and aggressive. He’s a good baseball player. And he’s played like that this spring. I’ve been impressed with his aggressiveness and his at-bats all camp.”

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