What can you really say about a rookie pitcher who turns in his second consecutive scoreless start, as Baltimore Orioles’ right-hander Mike Wright did yesterday against the Miami Marlins. Wright, who tossed 7.1 scoreless innings last Sunday to beat the Los Angeles Angels and record his first Major League victory, followed that performance up with 7.0 innings of shutout, three-hit ball. Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter summed up Wright’s performance succinctly.
“Special,” said Showalter.
No way anyone can argue with Showalter considering what Wright has done in his first two career starts. Granted, Wright has not faced the strongest lineups in the league. The Angels are batting just .233 as a team, while the Marlins are not much better, at .258. Potent offenses or not, Wright has done everything the Orioles need of him and more as he continues to fill in for the struggling Bud Norris.
The Orioles needed Wright to deliver a strong outing to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Angels last Sunday. Check. The Orioles needed an extended outing last night to avoid taxing the bullpen, which had thrown 11 innings in two days. Check again.
Wright’s scoreless innings streak is the longest for an Orioles pitcher since Dave Ford opened with 15 scoreless frames in 1978. Ford went on to finish his big league career with a whopping total of five wins, so whether or not Wright surpasses the scoreless innings mark, he will probably leave Ford in the dust by the end of the season.
It’s far too early to project Wright’s career at this point. Remember, Josh Towers threw 16 scoreless innings when given his first chance in the Orioles’ rotation in 2001 after working out of the bullpen early in the season. I’m not trying to compare Mike Wright to the soft-tossing Towers. Wright has a very good fastball and his slider and changeup have also helped him succeed so far this season. It looks like he has good command of all of his pitches, and an excellent makeup.
While there are likely to be a few bumps in the road as Wright’s time in the Majors progresses, he has shown none of the problems MLB.com cited in their preseason prospect rankings, which named Wright the seventh best prospect in the Orioles’ system. The report cited inconsistency with Wright’s slider and changeup as the primary factors which could hold him back at the Major League level. So far, Wright has had no issue commanding those pitches with the Orioles. He has also kept his fastball down in the zone, another strike against him according MLB.com, which said, “He’s up in the zone more than he should be,” when describing Wright’s fastball, which has good downward action.
Ultimately, MLB.com determined that the 6′-6″ Wright’s may be best suited for short-relief at the Major League level. After two starts, Wright appears to have much more upside than that. The upside was always there when the Orioles plucked Wright in the third round of the 2011 draft out of East Carolina. With better command of his slider and changeup and his already good fastball coming in lower in the strike zone, Wright has matured into a very viable starting pitching option for the Orioles.
As Bud Norris, who allowed nine runs and 12 hits in just 2.2 innings in a rehab start on Friday, continues to struggle, the Orioles can feel comfortable with Mike Wright in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Prospects surpass expectations all the time, and if Wright continues locating his slider and changeup, that is exactly what he will continue to do for the Baltimore Orioles.
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