Good start should give veteran right-hander more time in setup role
The Mariners start their second homestand of the season Monday night against the Tigers with one-tenth of the season elapsed.
Already it seems there has been a subtle but significant shift in the way Seattle manager Eric Wedge is doing things in the wake of a 5-11 start to the season.
That plan may have been scuttled. Last Wednesday Wedge used Wright against Torontos Jose Molina with the Mariners holding a 2-1 lead. Wright got the strikeout to end the seventh inning, but then the manager opted to have Ray start the eighth. Toronto scored five times off Ray and the Mariners lost out on a chance to sweep the Blue Jays.
The opportunity to use a setup man didnt come again until Sunday, and neither Wright nor Ray had pitched since then, so both were ready.
Wright pitched the seventh, walked the leadoff hitter, but got out of the inning on a dozen pitches to preserve the lead at 3-1.
In the past admittedly there isnt much past to judge from since Wedge has managed this time for just 16 games the manager would have gone to Ray to pitch the eighth and League to pitch the ninth.
But in the wake of the Toronto game, Wright got a chance at a second inning. Again, he didnt win fans by walking the leadoff hitter, but he kept the ball in the infield after that, and with the help of a bad call at first base by umpire Marvin Hudson batter Chris Getz of the Royals actually beat Wright, who was covering, to the first base bag, but Hudson didnt see it that way he handed the ball to League with the Mariners still holding a 3-1 lead.
Does this signal a change in how the Mariners are going to be doing things in the near future? Probably. Success is its own reward, and Wright, 36, is having some. True, hes a journeyman whose career is virtual map of both the major and minor leagues, but hes getting outs.
He barely got scratched in spring training (11 games, 12 innings, four hits, no runs). And theres been no bleeding since the regular season began, either (6.2 innings, two hits, no runs).
Why would Wedge not try to ride the hot hand while hes got it?
Its true that Ray, unlike Wright, is a former closer. Its true, too, that the 29-year-old Ray may have more of a long-term upside than Wright. But its also true that Ray hasnt yet proved that hes got the same stuff as he had before having Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow four years ago.
He pitched well enough in middle relief for the two teams that went to the World Series last year, beginning the year with Texas (2-0, 3.41) and finishing up with San Francisco (3-0, 4.13).
It would seem to make more sense to keep him in middle relief now, too, at least until he gets his game (1-1, 15.43 ERA) under control.
In any event, it seems ever more likely that Wright would be just a stopgap in the setup role. Closer David Aardsma starts an injury rehabilitation assignment with Tacoma on Tuesday, and unlike the ongoing saga of Franklin Gutierrez and his health issues, Aardsma has progressed steadily with no setbacks.
He could be back within a week, maybe two. That would push League back into the setup role and would allow both Wright and Ray to do the middle relief work they both seem suited for.