BOSTON – Steven Wright was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket on April 16 when Joel Hanrahan was placed on the disabled list. He joined the Sox in Cleveland and waited patiently as the Sox first played the Indians, and then returned home to face the Royals and A's, to make his major-league debut.
“It was almost a good thing that I wasn’t pitching because it meant the starters were going deep into a game," said Wright, "and that’s my job, to come in and eat up innings if a starter [isn't] able to go to the sixth, seventh inning."
He finally got his chance Tuesday night. The 28-year-old knuckleballer came on in relief of Alfredo Aceves in the fourth inning with the Sox losing, 8-0. The temperature was 42 degrees, a strong 16-mph wind was coming in off the ocean, and a steady rain was falling.
But if you think the situation and the conditions spoiled the thrill, think again.
“I don’t think it really mattered, to be honest with you,” Wright said. “I was just ready to get out there . . . [The] adrenaline was pumping, so I don’t think the weather was as much of a factor as I thought it was going to be.”
Wright did his job, which was to save the bullpen. The numbers weren't much -- 3 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 5 runs, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts -- but manager John Farrell was able to give the rest of his relievers the night off, as the game was called after seven innings because of the weather.
Wright got the first batter he faced, Brandon Moss, to ground into a double play, ending the fourth inning. In the fifth, though, he allowed four runs.
“I was kind of slipping a little bit on my front foot so I was leaving the ball up,” said Wright, who hadn't pitched since an April 9 start for the PawSox. “I should have made the adjustment a little bit quicker to keep it down. I was getting good side-to-side movement but I wasn’t able to get that drop that I was able to get later in the game.
“But I felt good. I felt like I hadn’t taken as much time off as I had. I felt all right. I just didn’t get the results that I would like.”
“He gave us a lift,” said manager John Farrell.
And then came other part of his debut that Wright probably never dreamed about: At game's end, he was optioned back to Pawtucket so the Sox could bring in a fresh arm -- Daniel Bard -- to bolster a bullpen drained by a doubleheader, an extra-inning contest, and a short outing by a starter over the last three days.
"[Unfortunately] for him, [we] need . . . to kind of replenish our bullpen, [so] he gets optioned out," said Farrell.
Gone, maybe, but he won't be forgotten.
"This is a guy that we feel has got starting capability at the big leagues," said Farrell, "and yet he’s still in a development path to gain consistency with his [knuckleball]. So he’ll continue to do that at Pawtucket.”
“I kind of knew [the demotion] was coming,” said Wright. “It was just a matter of time because you got [John] Lackey coming back. And with him coming back, that’s the guy you want in the rotation. I was an emergency guy and I was able to come in and eat up some innings today. Hopefully I get a chance to come back.
Bench coach Torey Lovullo gave Wright the lineup card from the game, a memento of his debut. Wright said his phone was filled with messages and texts from family and friends congratulating him, but he hadn’t yet had time to return their messages.
“I’m sure I’ll get back to everybody,” he said. “I’ll have plenty of time.”