SARASOTA, FLA. — It's becoming something of a tradition for right-hander Mike Wright to start the Orioles’ St. Patrick's Day game, but with so many springs under his belt trying to pitch his way onto the Opening Day roster, Wright would have to be as green as the bill of his holiday cap to say anything has been solidified when it comes to his spot in the rotation.
Instead, he laughed.
"I've never secured anything at any point," Wright said.
Sunday's 5-3 Orioles loss to the split-squad New York Yankees before a spring-high crowd of 7,851 at Ed Smith Stadium explains why he'd think that.
Wright, who after not allowing a run in 10 innings spanning his first four spring outings, gave up two runs on six hits Tuesday against these same Yankees and yielded four runs on three massive home runs Sunday.
"It's just baseball" he said when asked about the difference between this past week and the ones that preceded.
"I'm probably executing pitches a little bit better now than I was even then," Wright said.
"Obviously, today sucks, giving up three home runs and giving up all those hits. It's the second outing in a row I've given up a lot of hits, and the last two outings have probably been two of the best I've felt. Executing well. Just moving forward, the season's about to start, and it's going to be a different mentality. A different adrenaline. The guys are obviously going to have a lot more energy, and it's going to be a good thing rolling forward."
“I thought they came out swinging the bat aggressive on him,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He got hurt a few times falling behind in the count. He got a little predictable at times, and they just took advantage of it. He's got a really good changeup. I'd like to see him utilize it a little bit more to keep guys off balance. But he got five innings in, got his pitch count up. Productive from that standpoint.”
Considering his likely assignment, Wright would do well to carry good feelings into the season. Wright and David Hess are the front-runners to make the rotation behind Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner and Dylan Bundy, and he's getting the type of workload this spring that backs that up.
He's started five times in six appearances, and stretched to five innings on 75 pitches with one more start likely before the Grapefruit League schedule ends. There's a chance that even if Wright is the nominal fifth starter, he could be used out of the bullpen early in the season. Hyde has hinted at as much.
"It's awhile before we need a fifth starter," Wright said. "My mentality is to get outs on Opening Day."
With little of note offensively for the first seven innings save for a pair of hits by Joey Rickard, the Orioles left it late to make their comeback attempt. Trailing 4-1 in the eighth inning, catcher Carlos Pérez hit a solo home run, then Jace Peterson singled and scored on a base-hit by Chris Davis.
Sucre slings it ...
Catcher Jesús Sucre helped Cashner out of a jam Wednesday with a back-pick behind the runner at second base, and followed that up by recording his first caught-stealing of the spring on a ball in the dirt. Sucre's arm strength was evident as he didn't have time to set his feet for the throw.
Every Orioles pitcher who has thrown to him to this point has praised what he does behind the plate, and Hyde has said the fact that he arrived late at camp won’t hurt his shot at a roster spot. Before the game, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said the catcher position has been one of the pleasant surprises of camp, with plenty of defensive potential. Pérez helped his case with his home run after Sucre left the game.
… as Wynns waits
Such performances are helpful as the Orioles acknowledge that catcher Austin Wynns (oblique) might not be ready for Opening Day.
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"I'm hoping maybe next week some point, but it's just a tricky deal," Hyde said. "The oblique is a tricky injury, and you don't want to have any setbacks and we're going to be patient with it. ... Opening Day is just a deadline, from a standpoint of this is when we start, but we're not going to rush anything for him to be [ready] on that day. It's really up to him from a standpoint of when he's going to — how he's healing, game reps. He still hasn't taken batting practice on the field. There's still a lot of ways to go, and we'll make that decision as we get closer."