The Baltimore Orioles got through the ninth inning during Wednesday night’s convincing victory without using their closer, but could the reliever they did use slot into the back of their bullpen?
Wright has succeeded at the minor league level. He was doing well at Norfolk again until his recent call-up.
Yet, he gets to Baltimore, and he can’t get people out, and one hit becomes three and innings snowball.
It is easy to forget that in Wright’s first two major league starts, he pitched 14.1 innings and left up 0 runs, seven hits, three walks with 10 strikeouts. Now, he wouldn’t be the first pitcher to taste success and then drop off the baseball scene briefly. I’ll never forget Chris Waters.
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His third start was ok, going five innings and allowing three runs and getting the win. After that, the wheels fell off, and Wright was moved to the bullpen.
In 2015, Wright made three appearances from the bullpen. In those games, he pitched a total of 3 innings, allowing five hits, three walks with no strikeouts. Not great numbers, but he did pick up a win out of the bullpen. In none of the appearances did he go more than 1.1 innings.
In 2016, Wright made four appearances from the bullpen. One was as a long reliever, and the other three were short stints. In those short stints, Wright pitched 2.1 innings (1 inning, one inning, .1 inning) and left up one hit, no walks nor no strikeouts.
In 2017, Wright has just the one inning from Wednesday night, in which he pitched one inning and allowed one hit (Aaron Judge double), no walks with two strikeouts.
Throughout his minor league career, Wright has been almost exclusively a starter. He has a career 3.60 ERA in AAA and 3.76 in AA. So, he has shown the ability in the minor leagues.
One knock on Wright has consistently been that he is a thrower, not a pitcher. Wright has a fastball that can hit 98 miles per hour and did Wednesday. But, when it comes to thinking about attacking hitters and how to mentally stay in the game, it doesn’t always work.
In a very limited sample size, Wright has shown an ability to get hitters out in short appearances. He has never left up a run for the Orioles when he has been used for less than two innings out of the bullpen.
Buck Showalter remarked after the game that there is a scout who is constantly talking about Wright as a bullpen piece.
I mentioned it before here when talking about some possible late-inning arms while the bullpen was struggling. Speaking of which, the core of the bullpen (Givens, O’Day, Brach) has turned it around and done an excellent job recently.
Moving Wright to the bullpen just makes sense. Next year, he will be out of options. Wright will also be 28 years old.
But, could Wright play a role in the bullpen similar to what Tommy Hunter filled for a few years? A guy who doesn’t exactly make it look easy, but throws hard enough just to overpower hitters.
I think he can. Look, of course, you want your guys to be starters. But, it doesn’t always work. Look at Zach Britton.
Now, I’m not saying that Wright is going to be a closer. I think that Darren O’Day or Brad Brach should get that job when/if Britton leaves. But, could Wright be one of the setup guys who can give you an inning or maybe even a little longer?
With a logjam in AAA Norfolk’s rotation as it is, I think the time is now. Keep Wright in the majors as a reliever who can give you an inning or two. Maybe he can help quiet down the Norfolk shuttle a bit, although a lot of that depends on the starters getting innings and not needing to cover four-plus innings every night from the bullpen.
If Wright needs to be sent down, put him in the bullpen as a late-inning piece. Let him work with the pitching coaches on preparing to be a reliever and what adjustments may make him even more efficient.
With a wealth of starting options at Norfolk, the time is now to move Mike Wright to the bullpen. I think it would be best for not only his development but also for the Orioles.