Mariners' Jamey Wright still enjoys pitching — wherever it takes him
Jamey Wright, who has become a key pitcher in the Mariners' bullpen, began his pro career as a first-round draft choice of the Colorado Rockies in 1993. He has pitched for 10 organizations.
Seattle Times baseball reporter
Travelin' manMariners pitcher Jamey Wright has been with 10 organizations (Rockies, Brewers, Cardinals, Mariners, Rangers, Royals, Cubs, Giants, Indians, Athletics). He has pitched in the majors leagues for all of them but the Indians and A's. He has been with five organizations — Rockies, Brewers, Mariners, Rangers and Royals — multiple times. A look at his career transactions:
June 3, 1993: Drafted by Colorado (1st round, 28th overall).
Dec. 13, 1999: Traded to Milwaukee.
Aug. 29, 2002: Traded to St. Louis.
Nov. 1, 2002: Granted free agency.
Jan. 28, 2003: Signed by Mariners.
March 18, 2003: Released by Mariners.
March 26, 2003: Signed by Milwaukee.
April 28, 2003: Released by Milwaukee.
May 7, 2003: Signed by Texas.
June 15, 2003: Released by Texas.
June 20, 2003: Signed by Kansas City.
Oct. 30, 2003: Granted free agency.
Dec. 29, 2003: Signed by Cubs.
March 27, 2004: Released by Cubs.
April 2, 2004: Signed by Kansas City.
July 21, 2004: Released by Kansas City.
July 22, 2004: Signed by Colorado.
Nov. 1, 2004: Granted free agency.
Dec. 22, 2004: Signed by Colorado.
Nov. 2, 2005: Granted free agency.
Jan. 17, 2006: Signed by San Francisco.
Nov. 1, 2006: Granted free agency.
Jan. 25, 2007: Signed by Texas.
Oct. 30, 2008: Granted free agency.
Feb. 10, 2009: Signed by Kansas City.
Nov. 5, 2009: Granted free agency.
Feb. 9, 2010: Signed by Cleveland.
June 10, 2010: Released by Cleveland.
June 16, 2010: Signed by Oakland.
July 14, 2010: Released by Oakland.
July 15, 2010: Signed by Mariners.
Nov. 1, 2010: Granted free agency.
Jan. 31, 2011: Signed by Mariners.
Jamey Wright has played 19 years in professional baseball, a long and winding road that has carried him through 10 organizations, seen him get released seven times, and landed him on the mound in 43 different major-league ballparks.
In 2003 alone, Wright was cut loose by the Mariners, Brewers and Rangers — all in three months. And yet Wright kept believing, and kept pitching. He's 35 games under .500 (83-118) for his career, but there have always been teams that felt they could harness his ability.
Now his perseverance seems to have finally found him a home in Seattle's bullpen, one of the Mariners' few pleasant developments. But at age 36, having made the complete transition from fireballing prospect to wizened veteran, Wright knows better than to assume anything.
All he knows is this: He loves what he's doing, and he's doing it better than he ever has. Wright has become an increasingly vital member of Seattle's bullpen, finally giving up his first two runs of the season (just one of them earned) Sunday in his 10th appearance.
"I still feel I have good stuff, and I still feel I can get big-league hitters out if given the opportunity," Wright said. "I'm sure there's a few times the team wishes they hadn't released me."
In fact, five of the organizations eventually brought Wright back for a second go-round (or in some cases, third), including the Mariners, who made him their final cut of spring training in 2003 before reacquiring him last July 15.
That return rate speaks to Wright's popularity as well as his ability. As his longtime agent, Casey Close, puts it, "People like to have Jamey around."
And Wright loves being around.
"I'm still having fun," he said. "I'm not one of those guys who says, 'Oh, I'll get my 10 years and then I'm done.' That's not me. I'm a huge fan of the game. I'm a huge fan of some of the players, especially my buddies I've played with."
When it's pointed out that his circuitous career ensures he has played with just about everyone, Wright laughs, then turns serious.
"There's guys that have played a long time that made a hell of a lot more money than me, but I guarantee, no one's made as many friends as me," he said. "That's important. The friendships, the relationships I've made in this game, it's really special to me. I cherish every one of them."
Wright once seemed on a path to major-league stardom as a starting pitcher. Drafted in the first round (No. 28 overall) by the Rockies in 1993, he dominated in the minors, but struggled through four seasons in Colorado. Part was growing pains, part was injuries, part was the terror that was Coors Field in the pre-humidor days.
"I loved pitching there," he said. "It was just a tough place to pitch. I felt my stuff was very, very average there. Then we'd go on the road, and I'd have this great stuff. It was tough to deal with."
There was something else going on in that era, of course, which went unspoken at the time.
"Apparently, everyone but myself was on steroids, from what I understand," he said.
Wright says he's proud he resisted the temptation to juice up, but added, "I can't even really say I had too many temptations. I think I was kind of naïve to the whole thing. A lot of the guys I was drafted with in Colorado, or guys from that era (are out of baseball) and I'm still hanging around. I'm actually getting better. That's what's exciting for me."
Close, who represents Derek Jeter and Ryan Howard, among others, said watching Wright's late-career revival has been as satisfying as any of his other players' exploits.
"What a fantastic human being," he said. "He fought through a few hardships and continued to make himself a very effective pitcher. Jamey has always had a passion for the game, and it comes through. I think that's one reason his success has continued on further than other players."
Wright credits a tweak last year from then-Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair with playing a big role in his success. Adair urged him to drop his hands down to his waist before starting his delivery, a way to speed his arm action. It clicked, and Wright pitched well enough for the Mariners last year (3.41 ERA in 28 appearances) to earn a return invitation. Now he's become a bullpen mainstay.
"I've learned to be more aggressive and attack the hitter a little more than I have in the past," he said. "Right now, I know who I am."
And Wright plans to keep on learning. He has no retirement plans in sight.
"I'll probably go as long as they let me," Wright said.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Larry Stone
Larry Stone gives an inside look at the national baseball scene every Sunday. Look for his weekly power rankings during the season.