GLENDALE -- It was becoming an annual tradition, like watching It's a Wonderful Life or Belisario having visa problems. For eight consecutive years, Jamey Wright entered spring training as a non-roster invitee to camp, and for eight straight seasons he made the opening day roster, with seven different organizations.
But at age 39, Wright finally got another guaranteed contract, returning to the Dodgers on a one-year deal. It was well deserved.
"It was a lot better offseason for my family, just as far as not having to worry about when my agent was going to call, or if he would call," Wright said.
Wright pitched for the Dodgers out of the bullpen in 2012, and pitched well in a variety of roles, from setup to long relief. In 66 games he put up a 3.72 ERA with solid peripherals. His 17.7% strikeout rate was his best mark in nine years and the second-best of his career, and his 9.8% walk rate was his third-best mark.
In 2013 he was even better with the Rays, setting new career bests with a 22.6% strikeout rate and 8.0% walk rate to go along with a 3.09 ERA, also the best of his career.
"There were times I wished I had been more aggressive bringing him back last year," general manager Ned Colletti said.
Wright switched to relief midway through 2007 and since 2008 has worked exclusively out of the bullpen (except for one spot start for Tampa Bay last year in a planned bullpen game). Over the last six seasons Wright has the fifth-highest ground ball rate (60.0%) among all relievers with at least 250 innings, a stark improvement from his starting days.
"I wasted a lot of pitches as a starter. I was young, and I threw a lot in my bullpens before a start. I don't waste pitches anymore, I don't nitpick as much or try to be too perfect out there. I use my best stuff against them and stick to my strengths," Wright said. "I feel like my stuff is a lot better now than it ever was. I wouldn't trade my stuff now for when I was 23 years old."
Wright, who was born in Oklahoma City, wears a gray Oklahoma Sooners t-shirt when working out. The shirt is in absolute tatters, almost literally hanging on by a thread. Wright says superstition isn't what keeps him wearing the shirt, which he estimates he has had for nine or 10 years, but rather simply wanting to show support for the Sooners.
"I need to pick my spots with it right now, it's on its way out," Wright said. "I'm pretty confident it's not going to last through the year."
Wright signed a one-year deal on Dec. 24, 2013, and will earn $1.8 million this season.
2012: No subtitle necessary
|2014 projections - Age 39 season|
I think Wright will put up a 3.54 ERA in 61 innings, with 54 strikeouts. What's your guess?