Steven Wright provides stability to shaky starting rotation

Eric D. Schabell
Contributing Writer

Manager John Farrell said it best after watching Steven Wright toss three scoreless knuckleball filled innings Monday against the Mets, "Steven Wright is a guy that in my mind gives us a lot of comfort..."

It has not been pretty for a few of the projected starting pitchers this spring.

Yesterday we watched as Joe Kelly went down with bicep tightness in the third inning, after being hit hard. He allowed three runs on seven hits.

This has not been a great spring training for Kelly so far as he has given up nine earned runs on 17 hits over 7 1/3 innings in his three starts.

Another concern is that he has had below-average velocity in two of those starts while being projected as the No. 5 starter in the rotation.

Kelly was not taken for an MRI after the game. Farrell said he would be evaluated again on Tuesday.

Turn the page back to Sunday's game with Justin Masterson on the mound.

Masterson, projecting to be the number 3 starter, allowed six runs on seven hits and allowed two homers in 3⅓ innings.

Farrell said about Masterson, "In the first inning it looked like he was just trying to get into the game. He started to flash some better stuff into the fourth inning. With inconsistencies and when the velocity drops, [he] doesn't have the late action."

One scout described the outing as "awful."

Seven of the nine hitters who started the game were batting lefthanded, so it was a good test for Masterson, who has struggled against them in the past.

The struggle continues.

Wade Miley, projecting as the Red Sox number 4 starter, pitched the last 4 innings and allowed four runs, gave up six hits and walked three in Boston's 11-4 loss to the Phillies.

Farrell said about Miley, "There were breaking balls that didn’t have the finish he showed in previous outings."

Miley was mad at himself.

"I didn't locate and I didn't make pitches, especially to lefties, I didn't do a very good job against lefties," he said. "It was a day to forget about. It's better [to have it] now than later and move on. I didn't execute pitches and got to 2 and 0 to a lot of hitters. Can't pitch like that. I did a terrible job. I don't think I got a lefty out. That can't happen. I have to tighten up."

Back to the one stable factor behind the scenes of the Red Sox starting rotation, Steven Wright.

He has given Farrell something to work with this year.

"As that knuckleball has come along, he's thrown a lot more strikes. He's got the ability to give a contrast of styles. So we feel like the depth starters that project to be in Pawtucket give us is what we're looking for," explained Farrell.

Monday Wright entered in the sixth inning and kept the Mets off the board as the Red Sox rallied to tie a game they eventually won, 4-3. He gave up two singles and a walk, with no strikeouts in his third appearance of the spring and has been feeling confident after working with former Sox knuckleball artist Tim Wakefield over the past couple of weeks.

Wright is keeping it simple and effective, "...I just come in and basically do what I know I can do, which is try to throw quality knuckleballs over the plate, and then whatever the team needs me to do, I'm more than happy to do it."

Over the course of his career, Wright has pitched nearly 1,000 Minor League innings, but only 34 1/3 in the Majors, for the Sox over the past two years.

That number should go up this year with a role as a 6th starter, able to give rest and throw opposing teams off balance as needed by manager Farrell.

"I feel like I'm ready for any job they want me to do, whether it's in Boston or Pawtucket," Wright said. "Hopefully it's in Boston at some point. But I feel confident to where if I keep doing what I'm doing, working with [pitching coach Juan Nieves] and Wake and those guys, that I feel like I'm ready whenever they call upon me to go out there."

At least we have one stable leg to stand on with this Red Sox rotation.

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