Baltimore Orioles: The “Wright” stuff


When it became evident that back pains would keep Chris Tillman from making his scheduled start yesterday, Buck Showalter had a decision to make. Who would he tab to start in Tillman’s place? Luckily for the Baltimore Orioles, Showalter made the “Wright” decision, in giving Mike Wright the opportunity to make his first major league start – and his major league debut.

Wright of course had been called up to the ballclub earlier in the week, and had sat in the bullpen for four games. So one major benefit for the Orioles was that they didn’t have to make a roster move. However neither Wright nor the Orioles could have drawn up a better stat line or outing for a big league debut. Wright’s line: 7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K.

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Courtesy of Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tough to say what part of Wright’s outing sat the best with Orioles fans. The zero walks sticks out at me, as does the fact that he was consistently hitting between 96-98 MPH on the gun. Wright was throwing strikes; at two different points in the game, he retired nine straight hitters (including the first three innings).

Unfortunately for Wright, he was matched almost point-for-point by Anaheim starter Garrett Richards. However we almost saw a total role-reversal from Saturday night’s game in terms of the O’s being the team who got small breaks which led to runs. With one out Adam Jones reached on what amounted to a swinging bunt down the third base line.

And that small feat was all the O’s needed to get things started. Demon Young singled, giving the O’s runners at the corners. Following a Davis strikeout, Garrett Richards uncorked a wild pitch – which allowed Jones to score from third. Whereas on Saturday it was Anaheim getting a rally started on two infield singles, yesterday it was the Orioles reciprocating with some excuse-me moments of their own.

But the big story of the day was Wright. It can’t be stressed enough how good he was. He also had rapport with catcher Caleb Joseph, who had caught him at triple-A Norfolk. So it shouldn’t be lost on fans that Buck Showalter gave Joseph a rare day game after a night game start, which probably put Wright a bit more at ease. But regardless of who was catching, Wright shut down a pretty decent lineup – and one that has two potential future hall of famers (Trout and Pujols) at that.

I thought for sure that Buck Showalter would have gone to the bullpen after the seventh inning, however he sent Wright back out there. After striking out David Frees, Matt Joyce singled to center. That brought Buck Showalter out of the dugout, and brought the 41K plus at Camden Yards to their feet. It’s tough to imagine how great of a feeling it had to be for Wright to get a standing O like that after his outing. It also says something about the Baltimore fans, who know and appreciate good pitching when they see it.

Manny Machado singled in the last of the eighth, and that was followed up by Jimmy Paredes legging out an infield single. That brought Adam Jones to the plate, and his two-RBI double gave the O’s some breathing room at 3-0. It shouldn’t go unstated that Jimmy Paredes made that happen as much as Jones did. He never stopped hustling as Johnny Giavotella tried to throw him out from second base, and he thus avoided recording the third out of the inning. Anaheim put two runners on in the ninth, however Zach Britton pitched out of it and closed out the game.

After the game Buck Showalter was about as complimentary as a manager could be about his young starter (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko of MASNsports):

"I was watching him warm up. His presentation was real confident. He’s done some things the way it used to be done, where you make every stop and you do things at a level where you’re not wondering if you had done real well at the level you left. That’s the blueprint of coming through."

It’s unclear what will happen now with Wright. Buck Showalter said that the plan is for Miguel Gonazalez to start on Tuesday (after tomorrow’s off day) against Seattle. The Orioles are also evaluating Tillman and Bud Norris, who Showalter said was cleared to play today (and was available out of the bullpen).

Wright certainly atoned for himself to where it would be a shame for the O’s to send him back down to Norfolk – although one start should also be taken with a grain of salt to a point. However it’s certainly possible that he could stay and work out of the bullpen, or even continue starting in the rotation if Tillman (or even Norris) has to go to the DL.

As I said, one start should be taken with a certain grain of salt, and thus taken at face value. But the face value of Wright’s outing is that it was as good as one could have dreamed. Needless to say, not every start is going to go like that. But he’s certainly off to the “Wright” type of start!

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