Camden Courier-Post - March 2, 1980

Phillies pitcher Wright a man in no particular hurry


By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post


CLEARWATER, Fla. – Jim Wright was in no particular hurry. There was, he'd been told time and again during a week of workouts with the Phillies, no reason to rush, no need for haste.


Jim Wright took his time getting undressed. After spending the previous two hours or so running, throwing, doing the things a pitcher must do to get into shape for a season, it was time to relax.


Jim Wright lingered in the clubhouse at the Phillies' Carpenter Complex, savoring the soreness and stiffness in his body. It was a comfortable pain, one that recalled better times, and Jim Wright welcomed it like an old friend come to visit him.


"Without being totally optimistic, my arm feels really good," Wright was saying. "It feels loose, my ball's got some action on it and there's no pain – except some soreness in other areas of my body."


Wright must temper his optimism because, for the last three years, something has always happened to his arm. Now that the only pain he feels is the familiar pain of spring training, he does not want to jinx himself by talking in terms of complete recovery.


"I have to get used to being competitive again," Wright continued. "I'm a little nervous. I won't be home free until my second or third start and I begin popping off my slider."


Wright has not faced a batter in almost two years. One of the Phillies' truly bright pitching prospects, he has been unable to compete since July of 1978.


Indeed, he has pitched only 20 innings of minor league ball since August of 1977, when an incredible series of misfortunes began to befall him.


Success had come easily – perhaps too easily – to the 6-5, 220-pound righthander. Drafted No. 5 by the Phillies in 1973, Wright advanced rapidly through the club's farm system, never spending more than one healthy season at one level. He won 14 games for Spartanburg in 1975, 13 for Reading in 1976 and was 14-6 at Oklahoma City, the Phil's Triple-A team, the following year when his arm began to bother him.


"I've had success in the minor leagues to the extent that I was, well, I was an overpowering pitcher," he said.


But the power ebbed during spring training of 1978. The fast ball lost its pop, the slider became lazy. The Phils decided Wright needed another season in Oklahoma City.


"I pitched about a month and a half before I took a line drive off my (right) foot," he recalled. "A lot of people don't know I broke my foot that year..."


With a broken foot and a sore arm, there was little point in continuing trying to pitch. Doctors, who had been having difficulty deciding whether Wright's arm trouble was due to a stress fracture or a tumor, finally operated in July. They removed a tumor from his right forearm, leaving a small hole in the bone that would later have disastrous consequences."


"When they took the tumor out," Wright explained, "they said my arm would be strong enough for everyday life if I never pitched again."


Wright, of course, attempted to pitch again during spring training last year. He had been coming along well – as he has this year – when the weakened bone in his right forearm suddenly snapped.


He was pitching a "B" game at Jack Russell Stadium on March 21. He reached back to throw a fast ball and broke his arm when he released the pitch. It was as simple as that. Crack. His season was finished.


"It was," he said, "kind of funny because, when it snapped, it was so loud I look around. I thought someone was throwing something at me. But I knew it was broken because it went numb.


"Actually, what it was. I was stronger than the bone. I was a little concerned it wouldn't hold up, but by the time spring training came around, I thought it had filled up enough. I don't think I rushed into it. It eventually would've given way no matter what."


Mindful of what happened a year ago. the Phillies had Wright undergo extensive tests at Methodist Hospital in Philadelphia on Dec. 12. After x-rays, body scans and a tomogram, doctors said the bone had healed properly. Still, the Phillies rightly are in no rush to bring Wright back.


"Even if he's 100 percent sound. I won't run the risk of pushing him,'' said Manager Dallas Green.


In all likelihood. that means Wright will have to at least begin the 1980 season at Oklahoma City, no matter how impressive he might be during spring training.


"I admit the past season was really rough on me, especially after sitting out the first year with the operation," Wright said. "I thought I'd be okay, so it was a real blow to me.


"Maybe the break was a blessing in disguise, because now my arm is stronger. The setbacks taught me patience. Even this year, if I have to go back to Triple-A, I will.


"All I want is to get through this year healthy, and I'll get back in the big leagues."


Jim Wright is in no particular hurry, no hurry at all.

Only 3 regulars miss Phils’ drills


By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post


CLEARWATER. Fla – In baseball, reporting to camp does not carry quite the same significance as, say, in football or basketball, in which players are weighed and given physical examinations on their reporting dates.


Indeed, the Phillies already will have most of their veterans here when players are scheduled to report tomorrow. Spring training officially opens for the club Tuesday morning.


The players who went through their usual informal workouts yesterday included all but three regulars: first baseman Pete Rose, second baseman Manny Trillo and right fielder Bake McBride, and all are expected to arrive prior to Tuesday's opening.


Others who did not attend at least part of the club's voluntary week of workouts included pitchers Tug McGraw, Doug Bird, Nino Espinosa, Dickie Noles, Lerrin LaGraw, Marty Bystrom and Jose Martinez.


Of them, only Martinez was expected to be here last week. His absence has disappointed Manager Dallas Green, who feels Martinez' 4-10 record last year at Oklahoma City and some shoulder problems would've prompted him to report early.


At the same time, pitching coach Herm Starrette would have liked to have seen Espinosa here. Espinosa, another who experienced shoulder difficulties, was 14-12 with a 3.65 earned run average a season ago for the Phillies.


Green has scheduled a meeting with his coaching staff for tonight. The players are to undergo physical examinations Wednesday prior to meeting with Players Association chief Marvin Miller.


Contract negotiations between owners and the association have not gone well and the feeling among insiders is a players' strike is likely.