BRADENTON, FLA. — Even though Mike Wright Jr.’s outing Monday afternoon came in relief, the Orioles right-hander might have made his best case for a starting rotation spot with his three-inning save in the Orioles’ 8-5 Grapefruit League win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at LECOM Park.
Wright — working in relief for the first time this spring because his and Dylan Bundy’s day to pitch was the same — allowed two runs in a three-inning relief stint, but both runs scored on a ball that took a hard hop off the glove of minor league third baseman Drew Dosch and into left field and was ruled a double.
But Wright avoided a big inning — something manager Buck Showalter wants to see in finding Wright’s spot on the Orioles’ pitching staff — by limiting the damage when things start to go against him.
After José Osuna’s two-run double, Wright retired the final seven batters he faced to earn the save. He struck out two batters in a perfect ninth, including getting Bryce Brent to swing through 94-mph fastball for the penultimate out of the game.
“I understand that most of the [major league] hitters were out of the game after that, too, I try to keep it all in mind, but Mike’s last two innings were solid,” Showalter said. “That would have played against anybody. He’s got to be able to do what Dylan did and he did it. You’re going to give up some runs in the American League and the American League East. It’s just limit the damage and keep us in the game, don’t let it get away from you and [force] us to go to the bullpen in the second or third inning.”
It was the first time Wright has allowed multiple runs in an outing this spring. He has allowed just two runs over his first three Grapefruit League starts spanning seven innings. He allowed one run on two hits over three innings in his last inning against the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I see a lot more potential for that to be there,” Showalter said of Wright showing more ability to control the game this spring when things could go wrong. “There’s still another level when they put the third deck on there, but Mike understands that. It’s like, ‘How do you care less?’ You shouldn’t. It’s just being able to stay in the moment. He had a couple of times there where he went 2-0 and you saw him back off the mound and get back up there gather himself and throw a quality strike.”
Around the horn
Right-hander Brad Brach allowed two runs on three hits over one inning in his second Grapefruit League appearance Monday. Brach — who pitched the sixth inning so he could see lineup regulars — still struck out two. Showalter wasn’t concerned. “That's the first time he hasn't been real sharp,” Showalter said. “I think those guys, because they're established, and they know what it takes, they're able to simulate those things emotionally and mentally." … Jonathan Schoop, who was one of the few starters to make the trip to Bradenton on Monday, hit his third homer of the spring — tying the team high — and added a single and walk. After his seventh-inning walk, he was replaced by his older brother Sharlon on the bases as a pinch runner. … Luis Sardiñas’ two-run double paced the Orioles’ five-run fourth inning.