DUNEDIN, FLA. — Right-hander Mike Wright made his last start of the Grapefruit League exhibition season Friday night, pitching four innings in the Orioles’ 4-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Dunedin Stadium.
Wright has been at the front of the competition for one of the last slots in the starting rotation and did nothing to change that during a workmanlike performance against a decent Jays spring lineup.
He allowed two runs on three hits and two walks, completing his exhibition statistical line with a 3.32 ERA in 21 2/3 innings. He figures to drop in behind the presumptive top three starters — Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner and Dylan Bundy — if the Orioles go with a conventional rotation. David Hess is also prominent in the mix, but manager Brandon Hyde indicated Thursday that Wright could make the team as a starter or reliever.
“I thought Mike was good,’’ Hyde said. “He threw some good cutters. I thought he competed really well this spring. Now we’ve got to make a decision on what we’re doing, whether it’s a long-relief role or a starting role. I’ve been impressed with how he’s competed. I think he’s taken a lot of the analytical stuff that we worked on into the game, especially tonight.”
Hyde said it is still possible that the Orioles will experiment with the “opener” concept, using a reliever to pitch the first inning or two before bringing on a pitcher with the length of a starter.
“It’s still a possibility,’’ he said. “I think it’s safe to say we’re going to go with Cobb and Cash and Bundy, and then we’re going to make some decisions from there on what we’re doing and how we set the rotation following that.”
The Blue Jays scored their first run off Wright on a long home run by slugger Justin Smoak leading off the Toronto second inning. They got another in the fourth when Wright gave up a walk and a single with no outs, and Jays left fielder Teoscar Hernández scored from third while the Orioles were executing a rundown to complete a double play.
Wright was cut short so other pitchers could get some work during the waning days of spring camp. He went down to the bullpen and pitched simulated innings to get his pitch count up to 85.
When he was done, he looked back on his seven exhibition outings and proclaimed the spring a success.
“It was pretty good,’’ Wright said. “We’ve got some things to build on. I really like the stuff that I’ve been working on and looking forward to moving forward with that and going up north with this team.”
Wright, 29, said he has not been told anything about his regular-season status.
“Earlier this week, they told me I was starting today,’’ he said with a chuckle. “So, no, that’s up to them to announce different things. They haven’t really told me anything, but obviously it looks promising.”
Clearly, this is a new day for Wright and a new day for his young teammates. Though the Orioles are beginning to go through the growing pains of a rebuilding project, he couldn’t say enough about the effort of the team this spring, which was exemplified by a spectacular leaping catch at the center-field fence to rob Jays catcher Danny Jansen of an extra-base hit.
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“Did you see Cedric Mullins Spider-Man up the wall?’” Wright said after coming out of the game. “That’s got to get you fired up. I know we’re losing right now, but when you see defensive plays like that — Joey Rickard out there doing the Salsa and making great catches. [Jonathan] Villar being aggressive on the bases and doing different things. It’s just exciting. I’m real excited to move forward.”
The only Orioles batter to get a hit off him was Jesús Sucre, who did not exercise the out-clause in his minor league contract Friday. The only other Orioles to reach base against Sanchez were Chris Davis and Mullins, who both drew walks.
Sanchez has been known to pitch well against the Orioles in the regular season. He started against them three times last season and had a 2.45 ERA. The Jays won all three games.
Around the horn
Left-hander John Means replaced Wright in the fifth inning and allowed a two-out, two-run homer to Jays leadoff hitter Brandon Drury among the four hits he surrendered in two innings. … Tanner Scott allowed the first two batters to reach base when he entered the game in the seventh, but worked out of trouble with a strikeout and a double play. … Pedro Aruajo pitched a scoreless eighth inning, giving up just one hit and striking out two. … Friday night’s game was the last major league exhibition game at Dunedin Stadium before the spring complex undergoes a major renovation.