Mike Wright Jr. will take the mound Saturday afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays knowing it will likely be his penultimate opportunity this spring to make his case for a spot in the Orioles starting rotation.

He’s put together a strong resume so far, competing with Miguel Castro and Rule 5 draft pick Nestor Cortes Jr. for the team’s fifth rotation spot. Even if he doesn’t make the rotation, he’s probably already done enough to earn a spot in the team’s bullpen, especially since he’s out of minor league options.


When the Orioles needed to fill out two rosters on a split-squad day Sunday, the young pitching that they brought made it a day officials at every level of the organization were proud of.

“I’ve felt pretty good,” Wright said of his spring. “I still have some improving to do, but that’s what spring training is for — to get ready for the actual season if I’ve done enough to be in the starting rotation to start the season. But that’s not up to me, so I’m going to keep doing what I need to do and hopefully I put myself in a good enough situation.”

What’s been most impressive about Wright’s spring is that he’s embracing now more than ever the finer aspects of attacking hitters. In the past, when he started getting into trouble, he’d start to press and sometimes that led to being unable to limit the damage.

Wright, 28, was able to show he could limit the damage in his last outing, a three-inning relief outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday in Bradenton. He found himself in trouble quickly in the seventh inning after Josh Harrison’s leadoff single and a one-out double by Starling Marté.

He struck out Christopher Bostick for the second out, but then José Osuna sharp ground ball to third ate up minor league third baseman Drew Dosch, and two earned runs came into score on a play that was ruled a single.

That might have led to Wright’s unraveling in the past, but he kept the damage there, getting out of the inning with a fly ball off the bat of Colin Moran, the first of seven straight batters retired to end his outing.

In his last two innings, Wright didn’t have command of his fastball, which was running up and in to right-handed hitters. But instead of forcing the issue, Wright went to his secondary pitches.

“It’s good when you can compete and get out when you don’t have your command or one pitch,” Wright said. “It’s definitely exciting to see that you don’t have to have your ‘A’ game every time you go out there. You just have to learn how to adjust. … I started going to my breaking ball, which kind of got me back in line and helped me get back into some counts. I used my cutter 3-1 a couple of times to get me back into counts.

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“Things like that maybe in the past I wouldn’t do. I’d just keep trying to throw my fastball and get frustrated that I wasn’t getting it where I wanted to. I definitely think it was a good step forward.”

Wright has previously compared this spring to the one he had in 2016, when he earned an Opening Day rotation spot. But he’s actually made significant strides since that spring. His Grapefruit League ERA this spring (3.60 in four outings) is more than a full run lower than his ERA that year (4.79 in six outings). But numbers aside, he spent that spring trying to show the Orioles how hard he could throw. This spring, he’s trying to show how well he can pitch by mixing his pitches.

“I think in 2016, I think the first game I came out throwing 98,” Wright said. “It felt good, but if you’ve watched any of my past, one game I do hit 98, but a lot of the other games I don’t. So it’s the simple fact of the matter that I can’t plan to pitch at 98 and throw fastballs past people. I have to plan to have those games that I normally have, where I’m low 90s and mixing my pitches up, so I think it that regard, I feel better than I did in 2016.”

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