FORT MYERS, Fla. - Mike Wright took a sharp grounder off his right foot today with two outs in the third inning and the next batter poked a single up the middle. Another ball that didn’t catch air.
Past starts might have crumbled for Wright, but he retired Jackie Bradley Jr. on a fly ball and headed for the clubhouse with three more scoreless innings on his ledger.
Making a push for a spot in the back end of the rotation, Wright blanked the Red Sox on three hits with one walk and two strikeouts at jetBlue Park. He maintained the lead that Stevie Wilkerson provided with a two-run single in the second.
“It was pretty good,” he said. “A couple of those two-strike counts later that I didn’t execute as well as I wanted to, but you can’t really argue with zeros, so I’ll take that every time.”
Limited to two innings in his first two outings, Wright was stretched through the third and departed after 43 pitches, 27 for strikes. He’s the first Orioles pitcher to work three innings.
“A lot of times I feel better the more the game goes on,” he said. “It was pretty warm, so I was pretty loose, even in the first, and it feels good to go multiple innings and really get out there.”
The Red Sox broke out one of their imposing lineups, including Bradley, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt and Eduardo Núñez. Wright was going to be tested.
Betts grounded a single to center after Gorkys Hernandez nailed Wright’s foot. Bradley struck out in the first after Betts walked and Martinez popped up.
Wright retired the side in order in the second.
“I’m trying to make a spot on the team, so I think the intensity is there regardless of who steps up to the plate,” he said. “And honestly, there’s a lot of guys behind me trying to make the team, too. You saw Richie (Martin), the way he was playing. If I didn’t bring the intensity like they’re bringing it, it wouldn’t be fair.”
Martin, the Rule 5 pick vying for the starting job at shortstop, made a diving backhanded stop and throw to rob Bogaerts in the second. The ball was smoked, and Martin extended himself fully to grab it on one bounce.
“I mean, if you watch the video, if you watch me when he made it, it was awesome,” Wright said. “Those kinds of plays, just guys who play with heart and play hard ... Like I said, he’s trying to make the team and he’s playing with intensity. That gets me fired up for sure.”
Wright hasn’t allowed a run in seven innings this spring. He’s been absorbing data provided by the new regime, the analytics readily available to him and the rest of the staff.
“There’s a lot of stuff that just mentally has helped,” he said. “Obviously, I’m not going to get too specific, but just the way the ball’s coming out of my hand right now feels really good.”
Manager Brandon Hyde hasn’t decided whether Wright fits more in the rotation or bullpen. Wright prefers to start, of course, but is concerned only with staying on the club.
“I want to make the team, I want to make the team right now,” he said. “I’m obviously trying all my options.”
He’s out of minor league ones.
Yefry Ramirez retired the side in order in the fifth after serving up a solo home run to Bogaerts the previous inning. He’ll come back out for the sixth.
Martin’s RBI bloop single with two outs in the top of the sixth scored Ryan Mountcastle, who led off with a single, and increased the lead to 5-1. Martin twice has gone from first to third on singles.
Drew Jackson, the other Rule 5 infielder, brought home Martin with a single into left field. He’s 3-for-4 today with two runs scored.
Update: DJ Stewart’s two-run double in the seventh increased the lead to 8-1.
Update II: Zach Vincej’s RBI single in the ninth put the Orioles ahead 9-1.
Final update: Evan Phillips pitched the last two innings, giving up just one hit as the Orioles cruised to a 9-1 win.