Steven Wright Opens Eyes, Makes Case for Bigger Role With Huge Relief Performance

Steven WrightSteven Wright just made a name for himself.

Wright, who was recalled by the Red Sox on Wednesday, was a candidate to start Sunday’s game in Oakland, but that’s presumably no longer the case. Instead, opportunity knocked early, and Wright accepted the challenge with open arms, perhaps setting himself up for an even larger role amid a fluctuating pitching situation.

Wright, who comes equipped with a knuckleball, pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Ryan Dempster on Thursday to earn his first major league win. He allowed just three hits, struck out three and walked two while throwing 83 pitches (54 strikes) in Boston’s 8-7, 10-inning victory over Seattle. It was a brilliant bullpen performance by a 28-year-old making just his second big league appearance.

“He was the story of the day from the pitching side of things, clearly,” manager John Farrell said. “Compared to where he was the first time with us, many more strikes, much greater action and consistent action to his knuckleball. Given how well they swing the bat against fastballs, it was the right combination today. Today would have been his fifth day where he was completely rested. We needed every pitch that he could give us and just an outstanding job on his part.”

Wright has now thrown 23 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings if you include his last three starts in Pawtucket before being recalled. None were bigger than the frames he provided on Thursday, though, as the right-hander shut down the Mariners and gave the Red Sox a chance to squeak out their third straight win after a shaky start from Dempster.

Wright made his major league debut for Boston back on April 23. He came on in relief and surrendered five runs on six hits over 3 2/3 innings while striking out four and walking four. Needless to say, things went much more smoothly this time around, and a big reason was Wright’s ability to pound the strike zone and keep a good fastball-hitting team off balance.

When it comes to Sunday’s start against the A’s, Wright was joined by Brandon Workman and Drake Britton as candidates to get the nod. Wright presumably eliminated himself from contention with his successful outing Thursday, but don’t expect his effort to get lost in the shuffle any time soon.

The Red Sox are hopeful that Clay Buchholz will rejoin the rotation after making two minor league rehab starts, meaning the need for an additional starter may soon evaporate. We’ve seen how much things can change, however, and Wright’s performance against the Mariners may be weighed heavily whenever the Red Sox need someone to make a spot start.

Let’s not forget that the Red Sox’ bullpen is a very fluid situation. Wright’s 16 appearances with Pawtucket have all been starts, but he showed Thursday that he’s more than capable of holding down a relief role. Whether or not he’ll get that chance at the major league level remains to be seen, but nothing seems outside the realm of possibility at this point.

The Red Sox reportedly are looking everywhere for relief help, and you can bet that they’ll continue to look externally before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Wright drew attention to himself for all of the right reasons Thursday, though, so perhaps it’s the first step toward eventually carving out a permanent role.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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