Wright, O's add insult to injury

Pain forces starter's exit after 3 innings

Indians 6 Orioles 1

April 30, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

CLEVELAND -- About 10 years ago in this same place, Jaret Wright established himself as a future pitching star for the Cleveland Indians. He overpowered hitters with a fastball in the mid to high 90s and a hard curveball, and showed enough grit to win three playoff games as a 21-year-old rookie.

His potential looked unlimited until a series of shoulder injuries derailed his career. Now a 10-year veteran, Wright has seen his velocity and command wither, but his competitive drive hasn't. And that perhaps is the only explanation for why he took the ball for the Orioles yesterday and didn't want to leave the mound until his aching shoulder made it impossible for him to do anything but.

In his return to Jacobs Field and in his first start since going on the disabled list earlier this month, Wright labored yesterday through three innings of the Orioles' 6-1 loss to the Indians before succumbing to the pain that could force him out of the club's rotation indefinitely.

"It doesn't feel too good. I tried to get through it. It just hurts, basically. We'll see what happens tomorrow," said a dejected Wright, who allowed three runs in three innings. "It's tough to pinpoint it. You're in the game and you're trying to get through it. Like I said, you kind of feel stuff all the time, but it just got painful. It just felt bad and just kept getting worse."

Wright walked the first two batters he faced and then gave up a two-run single to Victor Martinez. He allowed a long home run to Casey Blake in the second inning that extended Cleveland's lead to three runs, plenty for starter Fausto Carmona, who had his way with the Orioles for 8 1/3 innings.

With Wright's fastball being clocked in the mid- to high 80s, it quickly became clear - not only to himself, but also to his teammates - that his shoulder still wasn't in good enough shape to get major league hitters out.

"With respect to Jaret, I don't really want to comment on how he is feeling," catcher Paul Bako said. "He was battling and competing. ... Whenever he has the ball, whether he is throwing 98 like he used to or 88, he really wants to compete and do whatever he can to get that done. Today just wasn't his day."

Wright has long endeared himself to his teammates because of his toughness and ability to pitch through pain. Several Orioles applauded him yesterday, while acknowledging it was difficult to watch him try to fight through the pain.

"It's very tough," designated hitter Jay Gibbons said. "You could tell from the first inning that he was laboring. He was trying to be out there for us, maybe when he had no business being out there. It's tough. He's a good guy, a great teammate."

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo wouldn't commit to Wright's going on the DL, but he acknowledged Wright doesn't look healthy enough to pitch.

"He certainly wants to compete out there. He just can't do that right now," Perlozzo said. "When your arm bothers you, you lose a little command. It looked like he was pushing the ball. I didn't think his arm speed was very good. He's just a tremendous, tremendous competitor, and I feel for him."

Wright (0-3) has had his shoulder operated on twice and said earlier this week that he'll be pitching in pain for as long as his career lasts. After yesterday's outing, he said the pain was similar to when he was removed from his previous outing on April 10. He made one rehabilitation start for Single-A Frederick and seemed confident he was ready to come off the DL.

"I want to be out there like nobody's business," he said. "When your body does something that hampers that ability, it's tough to swallow - especially with what I've been through. We'll see what happens. We'll give it 24 hours and come up with a plan. I think it's tough to make decisions the day of.

"I'm hard-headed. I always want to go back out, but you start hurting the team trying to do something that's not going to happen. A miracle wasn't going to happen, but you always want to go back out."

Brian Burres relieved Wright and pitched four scoreless innings, keeping the deficit at 3-0 and giving the Orioles (12-13) every chance to mount a comeback. But they mounted nothing off Carmona, a 23-year-old who will likely be making his next start in Triple-A with veteran Cliff Lee ready to come off the DL and join the Indians rotation.

Of the 25 outs an efficient Carmona recorded, 18 came on ground balls. The Orioles didn't even hit a ball with any authority off him until Aubrey Huff broke up his shutout with a bases-empty, ninth-inning homer on Carmona's 100th pitch.

"Today was a day where we just got beat," Bako said. "He pretty much said, `Here's the sinker, it's coming, hit it.' And we kept hitting it on the ground and at people. It was just a tough game. He was obviously on and used his sinker to his advantage."

Rafael Betancourt got the game's last two outs after Carmona was removed in the ninth. It was the Orioles' sixth loss in seven games and the third straight series they have dropped.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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