The Orioles have a pitching problem.
Right-hander Mike Wright allowed a career-high eight runs over 3 2/3 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays, and finished on the wrong side of a 13-3 rout.
Afterward, the Orioles optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk, opening a roster spot for veteran Yovani Gallardo to return from the the disabled list Saturday.
To say that Wright has struggled against Toronto might be an understatement. In six career appearances (five starts) against the Blue Jays, he is 0-4 with a 9.27 ERA, including a 9.20 ERA in three starts this season.
Four batters into Friday's game, Wright already trailed, 3-0. He walked Josh Donaldson, allowed a single to Edwin Encarnacion and then yielded the first of Michael Saunders' three homers on the night.
"He was missing," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "The first couple pitches he threw the ball down and away, quality. A tough at-bat and won the battle, first hitter. And then just couldn't command the baseball after that. Good hitters made him pay."
Wright allowed three homers on the night, also allowing solo shots to Donaldson and Justin Smoak. He left the game trailing, 6-2, with two on and two out in the fourth after allowing a single to No. 9 hitter Darwin Barney and hitting Ezequiel Carrera with a pitch.
Ubaldo Jimenez, making his first relief appearance since being demoted to the bullpen, didn't fare much better. He allowed two runs charged to Wright on a two-run triple by Donaldson and gave up a three-run homer to Saunders two batters later.
"I threw some good pitches, threw some bad pitches," Wright said. "They hit them both. ... I had a walk, gave up three home runs and then gave up too many runs."
As much as he has struggled against the Blue Jays, Wright's numbers against the American League East are actually worse. He owns a 10.46 ERA in 11 career games (nine starts) against division competition.
"I'm working harder than ever," Wright said. "When you're working hard, and get those results, it's tough."
Wright was also optioned to Triple-A following his shortest start of the season, a 2 2/3-inning, six-run outing against the Boston Red Sox on June 1. But he returned one day later when setup man Darren O'Day went on the DL.
He took advantage of his "do-over," as Showalter called it, holding the defending champion Kansas City Royals to one unearned run over seven innings on June 6. But in his next start, he didn't get an out in the sixth inning against the Blue Jays, walking a career-high five batters and allowed four runs over five innings.
"That's when the hard work started," Wright said of his start against Kansas City. "Got really good results at first and then ran into the Blue Jays twice."
Asked about Wright's spot in the rotation before Friday's demotion, Showalter didn't give a solid answer. The Orioles needed to make roster space for Gallardo and still need to do so to activate shortstop J.J. Hardy from the DL.
"Mike's an option for us next Wednesday," Showalter said right after the game. "We'll consider where we are. But we have to make two spots tomorrow. At least two, maybe three. With [Manny Machado's] looming departure it's tough to send out infielders and play with two guys on the bench, none of which are infielders. Pretty complicated. After each game, especially one like this, the chairs kind of move around."