The Baltimore Orioles had scored only two runs in the process of losing the first two games of their weekend series with the Los Angeles Angels — 3-1 and 6-1, respectively. To make matters worse, bronchitis and back spasms forced Bud Norris and Chris Tillman out of action.
Enter Mike Wright.
Wright was recalled to take a place in the Orioles’ bullpen after Kevin Gausman and Jason Garcia were placed on the Disabled List. Wright did not expect to be starting for the Orioles this weekend, but the injuries and illness forced the rookie into a spot start.
The tall right hander did not disappoint this afternoon, becoming just the third pitcher in the past 25 years to debut with at least seven innings of scoreless, walkless baseball. Wright allowed only 4 hits in 7.1 innings and struck out six.
Wright, who had thrown nearly 500 innings in the minors showed an excellent command of all pitches, and had an outstanding fastball, touching 98 in the first inning and 97 in the eighth inning. The Orioles’ offense was largely dormant much of the afternoon, but that did not matter, as Wright shut the Angels down inning after inning.
Perhaps the greatest sign of maturity for the 25-year old was his ability to regroup after finding himself behind in the count. On several occasions after throwing two balls in a row, Wright stepped off the mound and paused to collect himself. Overall, Wright threw 59 of his 90 pitches for strikes. Wright’s only real jam came in the fourth inning when he allowed a single to Kole Calhoun and a double to Albert Pujols. A perfectly executed run down and a strikeout allowed Wright to escape the inning with the shutout intact before the Orioles pushed across the only run they would need in the bottom half.
Wright was lifted in the eighth after allowing a one-out single to Matt Joyce. Brad Brach retired the next two Angels’ batters on strikes before the Orioles tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth inning to ice the victory. Zach Britton recorded his eighth save as the Orioles avoided the sweep.
With Wright’s strong debut, the Orioles are left with another tough decision in their starting rotation. Bud Norris and his 9.88 ERA continue to weigh down the back-end of the Orioles’ rotation. The Orioles pushed Ubaldo Jimenez out of the rotation last season for Kevin Gausman. Gausman is also another name to watch as the Orioles plan to stretch him out as a starter at Triple-A when he returns from a sore shoulder. Expect Norris to get another handful of chances to show he can return to the form that allowed him to post a 15-8 record last season. If that does not come to pass, Mike Wright may be the first Oriole to get a crack at joining the starting rotation.