SARASOTA, Fla. -- You don't have to remind right-hander Mike Wright Jr. that this is a big spring for him.
Wright, who is out of Minor League options, is trying to make an Orioles rotation that looks to have just one spot available. To that end, he's employed a cutter that he hopes can give him an edge over the competition.
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"There's been multiple years [manager] Buck [Showalter] said I need to get out lefties, I need to have something for lefties, and I think that cutter is kind of big," said Wright, who allowed one run over two innings in Friday's spring-opening 6-3 loss to the Rays. "It really complements my sinker."
Showalter said Wright's changeup has also improved.
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"He's made an adjustment on his grip a little bit," the manager said. "You can tell he came into camp, talking with [pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] and [vice president, baseball operations] Brady [Anderson], [the cutter] was something he really wanted to do to give him something to go to when he's behind in camp. Something with some movement."
Wright, facing a Tampa Bay split-squad lineup devoid of many of the team's projected starters, threw 31 pitches, 23 for strikes. The game started with an immediate test, as Wright got ahead of Rays leadoff hitter Micah Johnson, who worked a 12-pitch at-bat that resulted in a walk.
After a single, Johnson came around to score on a sacrifice fly, with Wright getting a double-play ball to get out of the inning. He had a smooth second inning, retiring the side in order with a strikeout.
"That's something he has to be able to do," Showalter said. "You are going to have a guy foul off six or seven, eight [balls], whatever it was. You are going to have a guy roll a ball through the hole. Now, what do you do? He kept it to one run. Kept us very much in the game. Didn't let his emotions get in the way of him. That was a good, calm professional outing."
The spring competition is nothing new for Wright. He made the team out of camp in 2016, but has struggled to consistently perform in the Majors. He went 3-4 with a 5.79 ERA in 18 games (12 starts) in '16, and -- pitching as a reliever -- appeared in 13 games last season, allowing 16 earned runs in 25 innings.
"I'm out of options and trying to make the team," Wright said. "In the rotation, in the bullpen, I'm [still] in the big leagues. But obviously things like this are key, because I want to be in the rotation. That's where I feel like I'm best at. That's where I want to stick at, and that's what I've been working on all offseason."