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05/12/08 8:15 PM ET
Wright getting job done out of bullpen
Rangers reliever being used often, but effectively, this season
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Jamey Wright has become one of the Rangers' more dependable relievers. He also has also become one of their most used relievers. Wright, in his first full year in relief, went into Monday's game among the American League leaders in three relief categories. He was fifth with 18 appearances, fourth with 22 2/3 relief innings and 11th among relievers with 337 pitches thrown. "I like it," Wright said. "I wish I could pitch more. It seems like the more I pitch, the better I feel. If I get a day off, I feel better the second day I throw after the day off than I do the first day. As long as I don't throw 40 pitches one night and the next night throw 40 more ... as long as I can keep my pitch count down, I can go out there and throw more." Wright has kept his pitch counts down. He is just one of 17 regular relievers in the American League who have averaged less than 15 pitches per inning. "I'm used to starting for all those years, so I don't think the number of pitches thrown is anything to get excited about," Wright said. "The more they use me means the more I'm doing the job, so I want to be in their more." Wright made the team out of Spring Training as the Rangers long reliever, but has been promoted to setup reliever. He and left-handed Eddie Guardado are the primary seventh-inning options in front of closer C.J. Wilson and right-hander Joaquin Benoit, who pitches the eighth. In that regard, manager Ron Washington wants to limit all four of those guys to one inning an outing, but that hasn't been the case with Wright. Because short outings by Kason Gabbard on Thursday and Kevin Millwood on Saturday have stretched the Rangers bullpen, Wright has had to pitch two innings in two of his last three outings. Washington doesn't like that, but he also needs Wright out there. Wright, like all other Rangers pitchers, was beat up during the seven-game losing streak in April but he has also been an integral part of the turnaround. Going into Monday's game, Wright had a 2.61 ERA in his last nine outings while holding opponents to a .121 batting average. "As long as we're putting ourselves in position to win ballgames and as long as he's one of our big pieces, he's going to be in there," Washington said. "We certainly don't want to overuse him or put him in a position to hurt him. But when you're winning ballgames, you have to put your pieces out there." Right-hander Frank Francisco, who once had the same role Wright has now, could help take some of the workload off him. Francisco has not allowed a run over 5 2/3 innings over his last four appearances, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out eight. "Frankie is starting to turn the corner as far as his fastball and he's starting to get his secondary pitches over," Washington said. "If he can continue to do that, you never know what will happen. He used to be a stud. His confidence is starting to go up."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.