04/18/07 12:55 AM ET
Bats make Wright a winner in debut
Offense connects for three homers in the second inning
By Kit Stier / Special to MLB.com
Then, Wright figured, he might come back to earth.
The 24-year-old left-hander had just finished his first start in the Majors. Backed by a potent offense, he chased away some first-inning butterflies and settled down to pitch five fairly solid innings in a 10-3 victory over a sloppy Cleveland team before a chilled announced crowd of 38,438 at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night.
"I just looked at my phone," the 6-foot-2 pitcher said with a smile. "I had about 50 messages and text messages. I'm probably going to go out there and give my dad and brother a hug."
His dad, David; brother, Chad; stepmom, Celeste; and those four or five pals from Texas were waiting to celebrate.
There was a stiff breeze blowing at game time. The temperature was in the low 40s, and a steady drizzle made for some uncomfortable working and viewing conditions.
"[Wright] was probably the only one who wasn't cold tonight, would be my guess," manager Joe Torre said after his team evened its early-season record to 6-6. "With that blood rushing."
Torre made the right call.
"When I was out there, I wasn't cold at all," said Wright, who said that he finally noticed the cold, damp conditions when he took the bench after the fifth inning.
Wright, a third-round draft choice in 2001, had just been promoted to Double-A to start this season. He'd been honored as Eastern League Pitcher of the Week ending April 15 because he'd worked 14 innings in two starts, given up just four hits, no runs, walked one and struck out 19.
So when the Yankees needed an emergency starter after veterans Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano were added to a growing number of wounded Yankees pitchers, the organization didn't hesitate to call up Wright from Trenton.
Wright walked more batters in the first inning than he had in 14 for the Thunder. He also gave up two hits and a run in the first inning, but then settled down to work the five innings. He gave up three runs on five hits and three walks, and he struck out three.
It helped that third baseman Alex Rodriguez continued his hot-hitting ways with a homer, single and three RBIs and that the home team slammed three home runs in a six-run second inning to take an 8-1 lead against an ineffective Jake Westbrook (0-2).
"I had some butterflies when I went out there," Wright said, adding that he'd like another chance to start in Boston in five days. "I settled down after the first inning."
The young pitcher admitted that the run support eased his mind. The Yankees scored twice in the first after Wright gave up a run in the top of the inning, and essentially put the game on ice in the big second inning.
Doug Mientkiewicz, who hadn't homered since last June 30, when he was with the Kansas City Royals, ripped a one-out home run to right field to open the scoring in a second inning that saw the Yankees send 10 batters to the plate.
Johnny Damon, who walked and scored in the first inning, doubled to right, took third on a groundout and scored on a single to first base by Bobby Abreu. Rodriguez followed with his Major League-leading eighth home run, a no-doubt-about-it shot to left.
Jason Giambi kept the drums beating with a single to right. Jorge Posada's second homer of this season and the 200th of his career carried over the right-field fence, and that was all for Westbrook.
In the third, Travis Hafner hit his second homer of this season, a liner to right. Yankees pitching coach Ron Guidry was especially impressed when Wright retired the next two batters after Hafner.
"That could have upset a lot of young pitchers," Guidry said.
Wright said that he might have gotten an edge when he was able to come to Yankee Stadium on Monday and take a walk to the mound when there was no one else in the house. It enabled him to feel at ease on Tuesday.
"I kind of went out to the field and looked around," he said. "It was a great day. Nobody was here. There was a tarp on the mound, but I went out there to sit anyway. It was amazing.
"I told myself to make sure to keep my eyes down and on the mitt today."
And for the most part, Wright did just that, butterflies and all.
"There's a lot of quality there," Torre said.
Kit Stier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.