Mike Wright has be­come Ori­oles’ most con­sis­tent starter

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL SPORTS - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

— Through the first month of the reg­u­lar sea­son, Mike Wright has qui­etly be­come the Bal­ti­more Ori­oles’ most con­sis­tent start­ing pitcher.

The hardthrow­ing righthander con­tin­ued his strong start to the year on Fri­day, al­low­ing two runs over six in­nings in a non­de­ci­sion as Bal­ti­more de­feated the vis­it­ing Chicago White Sox 6-3 be­fore an an­nounced crowd of 19,912 at Ori­ole Park at Cam­den Yards.

Wright, 26, fin­ished the con­test hav­ing al­lowed five hits and two walks with six strike­outs. He es­caped

BAL­TI­MORE

his fi­nal frame when cen­ter fielder Adam Jones snagged a line drive with the bases loaded and threw out hus­tling Jimmy Rollins at the plate for an in­nin­gend­ing dou­ble play to pre­serve a one-run lead.

He ex­ited hav­ing thrown 90 pitches, in­clud­ing 59 for strikes.

“Since the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, even since the be­gin­ning of spring train­ing, I’ve felt better and better ev­ery time I take the mound,” Wright said. “It’s very pos­i­tive to go out there and re­ally feel con­fi­dent and feel like I can ex­e­cute ev­ery pitch that [the catcher] puts down.

“It’s throw­ing off-speed pitches when I’m be­hind in the count, it’s throw­ing break­ing balls that are qual­ity. This time last year, I felt like some pitches were get­ting away from me and I kept re­peat­ing bad pitch, bad pitch, bad pitch. Now I feel like I’m set­tling back in and not throw­ing so many bad pitches in a row.”

Fri­day marked Wright’s third-con­sec­u­tive out­ing of six com­plete in­nings or more—the long­est streak among Ori­ole starters. He pre­vi­ously sur­ren­dered three runs over six in­nings in a 4-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on April 19, be­fore al­low­ing five runs on eight hits over 6 1-3 in­nings in a 6-1 loss against the Kansas City Roy­als on April 24.

His only vic­tory came in a five-in­ning start on the road against the Bos­ton Red Sox on April 12.

“To­day was, I think, the best he’s thrown of any of the times I’ve caught him,” Ori­oles catcher Matt Wi­eters said of Wright’s start on Fri­day. “I think we’ll be able to take a lot out of this out­ing and move for­ward [and see] what kind of pitcher he can be. It was fun back there catch­ing tonight. Even the runs they scored he made good pitches. For 90 pitches, or what­ever he threw, he was fo­cused as much as I’ve ever seen some­one.”

Ques­tion marks sur­rounded the Ori­oles ro­ta­tion fol­low­ing an off­sea­son in which they made few com­pelling sign­ings to ad­dress a start­ing staff that ranked near the bot­tom of the ma­jor leagues in ERA in 2015. Through one month, Wright (1-2, 5.40), who ap­peared in twelve games last sea­son, has proven to be an ef­fec­tive op­tion ev­ery fifth day.

Wright’s tough­est frame Fri­day proved to be his fi­nal in­ning. Af­ter strik­ing out lead­off hit­ter Austin Jack­son, he walked Adam Ea­ton on four pitches be­fore sur­ren­der­ing back-to-back sin­gles to Jimmy Rollins and Jose Abreu (RBI). He then is­sued a free pass to Todd Fra­zier to load the bases, los­ing the cleanup hit­ter when his fastball just missed low on a 3-2 count.

Wright fell to his knees in frus­tra­tion, while re­liever Vance Worley warmed in the bullpen. One bat­ter later, Melky Cabr­era flew out to Jones, who made a dif­fi­cult belt-high catch be­fore de­liv­er­ing a one-bounce throw to Wi­eters, who ap­plied the quick tag on Rollins for the dou­ble play.

“I want to give [Wright] those op­por­tu­ni­ties. There’s only one way for him to gain ex­pe­ri­ence to get through it. And let’s be fair, Adam Jones made as good a play as you’ll ever see and Matt made a great tag to kind of take away that mo­men­tum they had go­ing there, es­pe­cially in that part of the or­der,” Ori­oles man­ager Buck Showal­ter said. “But, he at­tacked the strike zone. He’d like to have that four-pitch walk to Ea­ton back—that’s one that got him a lit­tle bit of a bind there af­ter pitch­ing Jack­son tough—but you hope they learn from things that they’re ex­posed to.

“There’s only so much ex­pe­ri­ence that you can give them be­fore they start get­ting better from it. I don’t pay a lot of at­ten­tion [to stats] early, but it seems like he’s pitch­ing a lot better than the num­bers. It’s just the one in­ning that’s kind of got­ten away from him.”

Fol­low Jor­dan Schatz on Twit­ter: @Jor­dan_Whig

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