Boston Red Sox: All is not right with Steven Wright
Boston Red Sox starter Steven Wright hasn’t looked the same on the mound since his return from a shoulder injury last month.
Who are you and what you have done with Steven Wright?
That’s what fans must have been thinking watching the Boston Red Sox starter wearing Wright’s No. 35 uniform take the mound Wednesday afternoon. That guy looked nothing like the breakout star we had become accustomed to seeing this season.
Wright was putting together a spectacular season, posting a 13-5 record and 3.01 ERA through his first 22 starts, culminating in a complete game three-hit shutout in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. He was rewarded with his first career All-Star selection and was building a solid case to be included in the Cy Young conversation.
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Then manager John Farrell foolishly used Wright as a pinch-runner, sending his season into a downward spiral. Wright injured his shoulder diving back into second base, shelving him on the disabled list for nearly three weeks.
He returned to the mound at Fenway Park on August 26, but Wright was clearly not right from the start. He was shelled for five runs in the first inning by a Kansas City Royals team that ranks near the bottom of the league in runs scored. He settled down to complete five more innings without allowing another run, but enough damage had already been done to hand Wright his sixth loss of the season.
That one disastrous inning could have been chalked up to Wright needing time to find his groove on the mound again after being sidelined for several weeks, but Wednesday’s performance offered no optimism for progress. Wright coughed up four runs in only four innings before getting the hook. The Red Sox offense would come back to bail him out, sparing him a second straight defeat, but it was still a troubling outing for the knuckleballer.
In two starts since returning from the DL, Wright is 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA. He has allowed a pair of home runs in each of those starts after not having allowed multiple homers in any of his previous starts this season. He also issued three walks in each start, giving him a brutal 5.4 BB/9 since his return that is well above the 3.1 BB/9 he has produced over the course of the season.
Wright was quick to credit his teammates for the win in his last outing, recognizing that his rhythm and timing has been off.
"“Taking three weeks off in the middle of the season is not easy for anybody,” Wright told reporters after the game, per WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “For me, it was the first time I’ve had anything go wrong with my shoulder. The biggest thing is just trusting that it’s strong and healthy. The big mental thing for me is just trying to get over the fact that I can go through my five-day routine trusting that it’s good. There are still some lingering effects definitely going on. It’s been tough, both mentally and physically to go out there on a day-to-day basis to try to perform.”"
It’s never a good sign when a pitcher recently returning from the DL is referring to lingering effects of the injury. It leaves you to wonder if Wright may have come back too soon. Even if the shoulder is deemed healthy, there are mental hurdles that a player must overcome before they can return to form. If Wright is still battling to find a comfort zone on the mound, whether from a physical or mental standpoint, he’s not doing the Red Sox any favors by taking the ball every five days.
Next: Moncada arrives in Boston
The Red Sox need their star pitcher to right the ship if they intend to make a deep playoff run, when the margin for error will be significantly slimmer. With the AL East and Wild Card races both looking like they will be tight down the stretch, the Red Sox will need Wright to get back on track soon if they expect to even make it to October.