FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For weeks, it had been presumed that Steven Wright would start the season on the disabled list due to his recovery from left knee surgery.
But the knuckleballer took another important step on Saturday by throwing three innings of live batting practice, and he is ruling himself in for having a legitimate chance to be in the starting rotation when the season opens.
"I think so," said Wright. "Obviously, today was a huge, huge step in the right direction. Every day we've been definitely going in a positive direction. Obviously see how it feels tomorrow and the next day, but if I get one more live B.P., get four or five innings, or even if it's a sim game or whatever the scenario is, there's no reason why I shouldn't be ready for Opening Day or whatever that first turn around is."
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With Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello all but certain to pitch the first three games of the season, the earliest the Red Sox would need Wright is on April 1 at Tropicana Field against the Rays or the next day in Miami against the Marlins.
Getting Wright back for the first turn through the rotation would be significant because the Red Sox also face uncertain timetables for Eduardo Rodriguez and Thomas Pomeranz.
Rodriguez underwent right knee surgery in the offseason, but he's on a similar progression as Wright. E-Rod will throw in a Minor League game on Thursday.
"It seems like Eddie, he's in a sprint right now, which is great," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.
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Pomeranz suffered a mild flexor strain in his left forearm in his first Grapefruit League start on March 2, and will resume game action Sunday when he pitches in a controlled Minor League game.
At this point, Cora isn't ready to rule out any of the three pitchers for being ready for the start of the season.
"Got to leave the door open for that," said Cora. "They're working hard. They're putting themselves in a good spot. You can't rule them out."
<p. and="" are="" brian="" chart="" depth="" don="" hector="" if="" johnson="" left-hander="" next="" on="" red="" right-hander="" sox="" the="" velazquez=""> As for Wright, after an extensive rehab from a cartilage restoration surgery that took place on May 8, 2017, he is thrilled to just be back in the mix. </p.>
"Yeah, that's always been the goal," Wright said. "Once I decided to do the surgery last year, my ultimate goal was to be ready for Opening Day. Obviously I wish I was in more games right now, but right now, I can't really get caught up in that because every day I've gone out, I'm feeling stronger, I'm feeling better."
Cora was impressed by what he saw from Wright on Saturday.
"He looked great," Cora said. "He told me not to judge him by the first inning. Then you see all the balls by the backstop, so it got better and better. Now we just have to see how he reacts to it, how he feels and we move forward. The eye test, just watching him, it seems like he's in a good place, he got a comebacker in the last inning, he was fine, it seems like there was no hesitation. He told me he felt great."
There was a clear exuberance from Wright on Saturday, which is understandable when you consider he had a right shoulder injury that pretty much took away the final two months of his All-Star season in 2016 and then '17 was pretty much a lost year because of the knee.
Finally, he sees a glimmer of light in which he can focus more on pitching mounds than training rooms.
"I'm not going to sit here and say for sure because I just don't know, but if I keep progressing the way I have been, there's definitely a good chance that I'm going to be able to break with the team," said Wright.