BRADENTON, Fla. - No matter what role fits Mike Wright in the eyes of manager Brandon Hyde, the most important point is how the right-hander has done everything needed to stay with the club. Leaving nothing to chance.
Wright is out of options but he hasn’t run out of time. Three more scoreless innings today against the Pirates raised his total to 10.
If there’s no room in the rotation, especially with early off-days eliminating the need for a fifth starter until April 10, the Orioles can return him to their bullpen to provide coverage for multiple innings.
“I’m still in the (mode of) whatever role is what it is,” he said. “Right now I was on four days’ rest, so the fifth day, that’s exciting. But moving forward I’m going to continue doing the same thing I’ve been doing and try to make the team.”
The Pirates managed only one hit off Wright, a two-out double to left field by Melky Cabrera in the second. Wright hit Adam Frazier with two outs in the third.
Wright’s line held three strikeouts, including Starling Marte in the first to end an eight-pitch battle. The Pirates kept fouling off pitches to run Wright’s count to 54.
Austin Hays made a tremendous running, sprawling catch in right-center field to rob Ke’Bryan Hayes in the third.
Today marked back-to-back outings with Wright lasting three innings. His finest work came versus the Pirates with only one hit allowed and no walks.
“I’ve felt pretty good in all of them,” he said. “Today, after some of these plays, it’s the most exciting, for sure. Hays in center field making those plays is absolutely outstanding. And there were some pitches that felt really, really solid today and I’m excited to continue moving forward.”
In those 10 scoreless innings, Wright has allowed nine hits and walked two batters with seven strikeouts.
Asked whether this is the best he’s thrown in any spring training, Wright replied, “I think if you look at the stats it is. I feel pretty good right now. I hope to keep that rolling and continue to have the best spring possible.”
Don’t press Wright on it. He doesn’t want to jinx anything good that’s happening to him.
“You know baseball players are superstitious,” he said, “so I’ll let you interpret that how you may.”
The increase in confidence is no secret. Wright freely admits it. His head is in the right place, along with his arm slot.
“I think absolutely more confidence than in a while, maybe since 2016,” he said. “It’s 100 percent because of the work we’re putting in here, the work that we’re doing with the coaching staff top to bottom. Even with Chris Holt, the minor league coordinator. Everybody is on the same page and it’s exciting.
“They say, ‘This is what you’ve got. Go out there and use it this way.’ And it’s just exciting to put that work in and seeing the results right now.”
The data provided via a truer commitment to analytics clearly is benefitting Wright, who has a career 5.75 ERA and 1.517 WHIP in 228 2/3 major league innings. Spin efficiency is one area that’s become a focal point for pitchers in camp.
“They tell me what I need to hear on a daily basis in between bullpens and in between starts, and we’re working on different machines. Right now the confidence and the results are kind of speaking for themselves,” Wright said.
“Confidence is huge. I can’t really stress that enough. It seems weird for people who don’t go out there every single day, but it’s big and obviously it helps your confidence when you’ve got defense behind you like we played today.”
The bond with new pitching coach Doug Brocail keeps getting stronger for Wright.
“He’s awesome,” Wright said. “Everything we talk about, just everyday life, walking around the clubhouse, I’m really excited about what this year holds.”
Wright’s fastball was 90-93 according to the radar gun at LECOM Park, and he used it liberally. Heaters and cutters.
He isn’t throwing anything in his repertoire with greater or less frequency than previous years.
“It’s just a little different and a little more conviction behind them because of what the stats say about different things,” he said, declining to elaborate and tip off opposing hitters.
“I’ve shared pretty much what I’m comfortable sharing,” he said.
Stevie Wilkerson’s first extra-base hit of the spring was a home run in the fifth to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead, but Yefry Ramirez served up solo homers to Erik Gonzalez and Adam Frazier in the bottom half.
Left-hander Josh Osich, with his mid-90s fastball, tossed a scoreless fourth inning with two hits allowed and a double play grounder.
Ramirez allowed two more home runs in the seventh to Patrick Kivlehan and Cole Tucker.
Final update: Tucker hit a 2-0 pitch from Branden Kline for his second homer of the day and the game-winner. Pirates win 5-4.