Mike Wright will among several candidates battling for the long reliever spot.

I like this Mike Wright. What do I mean by that? It means that’s not the guy I saw in the minors. The guy I saw in the minor leagues was 5th starter at best, who couldn’t command his 91-94 MPH fastball consistently, had an inconsistent slider, and was unable to miss bats often with no put away pitch.

Obviously the new Mike Wright is a different kind of pitcher. First off, the velocity jump is pretty intriguing because now he’s able make batters miss in fastball counts because he’s getting his 4-seam fastball into the mid 90’s pretty consistently, even touching 97-98 MPH on occasion. The thing is, he was also commanding his 90-94 MPH two-seamer that showed some late arm side run and basically gave him another look. Batters just didn’t look comfortable against him and didn’t seem to pick up his fastball, something I could never really say about Kevin Gausman when he started.

With Caleb Joseph masterfully calling the game behind the plate, Wright used the age old adage of working fast, changing speeds, and throwing strikes, but not just strikes, quality strikes. Although his average fastball velocity dropped a bit late in the game, he was still able to reach back and get 97 in the 8th inning. That’s impressive.

This Mike Wright is a big league starter. Although his slider was still only average (he did throw a couple of nice ones down and away to righties), he showed a plus changeup with good drop that he commanded better late in the game. That changeup came in around 79-80 MPH which gave it a 10-15 MPH difference from his average fastball. Wright’s changeup was his best offspeed pitch when I saw him back in Bowie but his slider did look improved today. The curveball remains a show me pitch but if he can get that over occasionally, it just gives him one more look that can change the eye level of the batter.

It’s easy to see why the Orioles got so excited about Wright over the last month or so of the season last year when he dominated. Whatever happened, something clicked in this guy and there’s little doubt that stuff can play in the major leagues as a starter. The only issue now is how consistent from start to start will he be with his stuff? That will be the only difference between whether he settle in as a solid starter or goes to the bullpen and becomes a power late inning reliever. Whatever happens, the future is pretty bright for Wright and that future appears to start today.

You have to imagine he earned himself another start, though it’s hard to imagine Buck pulling Norris from the rotation this early in the season. Regardless, this Mike Wright has the stuff to stay a starter in the big leagues and I’m guessing he’s going to get more chances this season.

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Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.