Mike Wright Jr. has done plenty of surviving over his four seasons trying to solidify himself as a major leaguer.
Sunday's disaster against the New York Yankees might have been enough to finish him off.
Wright retired just two batters as the Yankees batted around in a marathon first inning, forcing manager Buck Showalter to tap into a tired bullpen to hold for an 8-7, come-from-behind win in 12 innings Sunday in the Bronx.
“It was pretty awful,” Wright said, “but the good news is we won.
“I felt like I was throwing some pretty good pitches. They're a good-hitting team. They made some quality contact. I think the one pitch I really, really wish I had back was the last one to [Ronald] Torreyes. But other than that, I feel like I battled and threw some pretty good pitches.”
Once he left, a television camera caught Wright taking out his frustrations on the padded visiting dugout wall at Yankee Stadium with a five-punch combination. It was one for every run he allowed.
“Mike, like a lot of starting pitchers, you're hoping he can get in that inning and give us some length,” Showalter said. “He's a pitch away from getting out of that inning. He just couldn't make the pitch, but he's going to have to be better than that. He knows that.”
Center fielder Brett Gardner worked the count full before singling to open the inning, and went to third base on a single by Aaron Judge. Neither had moved after a strikeout by Giancarlo Stanton, but Wright made a split-second decision that tanked his afternoon.
Neil Walker tapped a ball just in front of the mound, and instead of trying to retire Gardner at home, Wright turned and threw to second base to try to start a double play that would end the inning. His throw pulled shortstop Manny Machado off the bag, keeping everyone safe and allowing a run to score, with Machado sprawling to keep the ball in the infield.
“I thought it was hit hard enough that we could turn it,” Wright said. “Obviously, with Manny's arm, if I get it there and we turn that, we're out of the inning. We've got one of the best turning middle infields in the league. I was trying to utilize them.”
Tyler Austin walked to load the bases, and third baseman Miguel Andújar singled to plate two. Jace Peterson popped up to Machado for the second out, Austin Romine singled to make it 4-0, and an RBI double off the left-field wall by Torreyes brought Showalter out of the dugout to take Wright out of the game.
Sunday's struggles all but ensured that Wright's time in the Orioles' rotation is winding down, and that casts his future with the club into doubt, too. Despite an encouraging first start last week against the world champion Houston Astros, Wright has been a temporary rotation solution until late free-agent signing Alex Cobb is ready to join the team. Cobb will pitch a simulated game Monday before a likely major league start April 14 or April 15 in Boston.
With no game Thursday, the Orioles can slot Cobb into the rotation without using Wright again. Even a great start Sunday might not have prevented that.
But because he's out of minor league options and hasn't pitched well in his limited experience as a reliever, it's unclear whether the Orioles will decide to try him in a bullpen role again or move on from him. Wright has his advocates in the organization, but he carried a 5.85 major league ERA into Sunday and hasn't done anything to hold onto a rotation spot in the three seasons he's been given that chance.
It's not for lack of effort. He's tinkered with his arsenal and tried to take a new mental approach to improve his fortunes. The frustration over not seeing the results was released on the dugout wall Sunday.
As for where Cobb’s pending arrival, Wright can only watch and wait like everyone else.
“I don't know,” Wright said. “I'm not sure about where that leaves me, but I'm going to keep working hard. That's what I've been doing since this offseason, and I feel good about where I'm at.”