Wright makes strong case for final starter spot

Wright makes strong case for final starter spot

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- While manager John Farrell has made nothing official concerning his starting rotation -- he hasn't even named the Opening Day starter yet -- knuckleballer Steven Wright helped himself in the competition for the final spot with his performance in Sunday's 5-1 win over the Phillies.

Wright went 5 2/3 innings, giving up one run on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts. He threw 103 pitches, 66 for strikes.

"He certainly helped his cause today with a solid outing," Farrell said. "I thought he did a nice job with his fastball and his curveball in the early innings to get back into some counts. And then he got a better feel for his knuckleball as the game went along. But to get him up over a 100 pitches here today, today was a good step for Steven."

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Through attrition and injuries, the competition is between Wright and left-hander Roenis Elias, who had an abysmal showing on Saturday when he surrendered six runs on seven hits, including three homers, and a walk in 2/3 innings working out of the bullpen.

In five Grapefruit League appearances (four starts), Wright has posted a 2.66 ERA. Over 20 1/3 innings, he has given up eight runs (six earned) on 27 hits with 11 strikeouts and six walks.

The rotation spot became available when left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez suffered a subluxation of his right knee on Feb. 27 and has since been sidelined. Lefties Henry Owens and Brian Johnson were in the running, but they have been optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Wright isn't taking anything for granted, though.

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"I think everybody's been doing a good job," Wright said. "The thing about the fifth spot -- let's be realistic -- whoever gets that job, it's just a temporary thing because it's Eddie's job. We need Eddie. If we're going to go deep into the season and into the playoffs, we're going to need Eddie in there. So I don't think they can go wrong with whoever they do decide to go into the fifth spot. If it is my spot for the time being, I'm going to try to go out there, go as deep as I can. But if I go to the bullpen, I'm going to take the same approach I do when I'm starting. I'm just going to try to go out there, just try to attack the zone, try to give our team a chance to win."

And he's trying to keep the competition -- and the decision that will be made -- out of his mind.

"It's not my job to think like that," Wright said. "I've thought like that in the past and all it does is take away from what I can control. Stuff like that I can't control. If I start thinking about it, then it's going to affect the things I can control, because I'm either going to try to do too much, I'm going to put too much pressure on myself that I don't need to put on.

"But it's definitely in the back of your mind because it is coming down to the time when we're going to be leaving. But I don't think about it as far as I have to impress because if I try to impress, I'm going to probably overplay, overthrow instead of just going out there, just try to have fun and continue to do what I've been doing all spring."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.