Wilmington Evening Journal - April 7, 1980

Wright performance bright spot in Phils’ camp


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


CLEARWATER. Fla. – Since the Phillies’ pitching staff is the biggest question mark entering Friday night's opener against Montreal at Veterans Stadium, Jim Wright's performance yesterday was one of the most encouraging things to happen here recently.


True, it was just a meaningless exhibition game between two minor-league teams, but Wright, once the brightest pitching prospects in the Phillies' organization before being continually hampered by injuries, threw six scoreless innings and allowed only two hits as Oklahoma City defeated a team of camp all-stars 3-2.


The same was televised hark tn the Philadelphia area, filling the void of a major-league exhibition that was canceled because a major-league players strike.


For Wright, who missed all of 1979 because of a fractured arm he suffered while pitching in an exhibition game last spring, the performance was his best since 1978.


"That was the day I threw three scoreless innings against St. Louis down here," the 25-year-old right-hander said. "It was a great feeling to go out there and do what I wanted to do with the baseball."


"He's ready to pitch in the majors right now," said Jim Snyder, Oklahoma City manager. "He had great movement; he was moving the ball in and out. His fastball was really popping."


Wright has been bothered by arm miseries since August of 1977. He was having an outstanding summer when an injury ended his season. The problem popped up again during spring training in 1978, forcing him to miss most of the season and eventually have surgery.


"People who saw me pitch today are going to think I am ready to join the big team," Wright said. "Frankly, I don't know what they have planned for me in 1980. My only goal is to be healthy all season and get back in a good groove."


Most of the people who watched yesterday's game under cloudy skies at Jack Russell Stadium were surprised he was able to have such good control.


"That's something I have always had," said Wright, who has a 42-19 record in three-plus minor-league seasons. "I knew if my arm was healthy, I wouldn't have any trouble with control. Last year was a pretty difficult one for me. When you only have a high school education and have two children and you can't pitch, well..."


Last spring, Wright was hoping to land a spot with the varsity when the bone in his arm snapped.


"I heard it crack; I knew it was broken immediately," he said. "There was no doubt in my mind. I just wondered if I would ever pitch again.


"Now, I am more optimistic than I was when I came to spring training a year ago. There was some doubt in my mind because they had taken out that bone spur and there was a hole in the bone in my arm. If anything, the fracture helped strengthen my arm.


"Just like I said, I have one good thing going for me. I've always had good control. Even though I did not pitch at all in 1979, I can get the ball over the plate."


The cast was removed from his arm last June 21. After that, he started the long road back, performing various exercises to strengthen the arm.


"I tried to keep a baseball in my hand as much as possible," he said, "but I was not allowed to throw. I got my clean bill of health before Christmas and began lobbing the ball."


When asked if he thinks he was tested, he grinned. "If that's the case, I've passed the test. I've got years left; I've still got faith."


Wright concedes he favored the arm early last spring, but when he was finally told to throw as hard as he could, he decided he might as well try.


"I knew it wasn't right earlier in the spring," he said, "but I kept hoping it would come around. Now, I just have to think that the injuries are behind me. I'm going to approach spring training with that in mind. It was a nightmare, but it is over, behind me."


EXTRA POINTS – The major-league team worked out prior to the minor-league team... Garry Maddox is still bothered by a slight muscle pull in his leg... Rawly Eastwick, the relief pitcher who was cut on Saturday, is heading back to Philadelphia today to sit by the phone.