Minneapolis — Right-hander Mike Wright Jr. recorded another promising relief performance Friday night that might go unnoticed within the lowlights of another Orioles loss.
But Wright’s scoreless 1 1/3-inning outing in the Orioles’ 6-2 setback against the Minnesota Twins — his fourth straight scoreless appearance — offered another sign that Wright is finding his comfort zone as a reliever.
Wright could still receive a spot start opportunity in Monday’s home doubleheader against the New York Yankees. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that despite throwing 26 pitches Friday, Wright could still potentially start Monday.
“After seven or eight days off, it’s almost like a good workday,” Showalter said.
Right-hander Yefry Ramírez will start one game, and Wright or right-hander Miguel Castro could start the other game out of the bullpen or the team could summon right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis from Triple-A Norfolk to make the start.
In Friday’s game, Wright retired four of the six batters he faced, striking out two. His fastball velocity continued to trend upward, as he threw a four-seamer that averaged 94.2 mph and reached 96.1 mph. Of the 12 four-seamers Wright threw, he recorded three swinging strikes and three called strikes.
At the beginning of this season, when the Orioles were using him in a starting role, Wright’s fastball averaged 91-92, but over the past five weeks, he’s averaging 94-95.
“His stuff ticked up, his velocity,” Showalter said. “You all have watched it. Early in the season, he was still scratching his head a little bit with his velocity and just little by little, you can see there’s a lot more confident approach. When you’re throwing 94-95 as opposed to 91, you’re going to have a lot more confidence. You can tell from just his body language and getting down the hill.”
Wright has spent most of his recent Orioles career moving between a starting role and the bullpen. But he’s now settling into the multiple-inning reliever role. Over his past 14 outings dating to May 13, Wright has a 1.44 ERA despite allowing his share of base runners — 27 hits and 18 walks over 25 innings. Over that stretch, Wright has improved his season ERA from 9.15 to 4.93.
Over his past four outings, Wright has been dominant out of the bullpen, pitching 8 2/3 scoreless innings while holding opponents to a .200 average and striking out six while walking just one with a hit batter. Over that stretch, Wright has logged 7 1/3 scoreless innings over three appearances over a six-day stretch.
“I think what’s really been heartening is his durability,” Showalter said. “This guy has pitched a couple innings and he’s ready to go the next day. He had some issues last year we had to be really careful with. This year’s it’s been just the opposite. He bounces back as good as anyone we’ve got. That’s been a good sign. I’m sure Mike, in the back of his head, would still like to get back to starting. You put together his body of work over the last month or so, and it’s been pretty good.”
Mancini sits Saturday
Left fielder Trey Mancini received a day off on Saturday’s day-after-night game against the Twins.
Showalter said the decision was in part because he wanted to give Jace Peterson a start in the outfield. Saturday’s game was Peterson’s first start since Sunday and just his second since June 21 at Washington.
“Pete hadn’t played in a long time,” Showalter said. “I needed to get Pete out there. Just giving [Mancini] a day [after] night [game] blow.”
Mancini began to show signs of breaking out of his season-long struggles at the plate, going 9-for-22 over a six-game stretch at the end of last month, but he is just 2-for-18 over his past six games.
He had reached base in four of eight career plate appearances against Saturday’s Twins starter Kyle Gibson, going 1-for-5 with three walks.