By Jon Weisman
Jamey Wright has a wife, a 12-year-old daughter and two boys — 7 and 9. Wright turned 41 in December, and he’s thrown more than 2,000 innings in the Major Leagues.
With family and Father Time beckoning, the time for Wright to hang up the cleats for good seems pretty obvious.
But it was that wife, and that daughter, and those two boys who told Wright he should try to extend his ballplaying dreams one year longer.
Having signed with the Dodgers on February 24, the 6-foot-6 righthander has now entered week two of what you could call a comeback, although the stakes of that word seem too strong.
Yes, Wright sat out the 2015 season after the Texas Rangers released him at the end of Spring Training a year ago. And yes, Wright is determinedly aiming to make this Dodger team, right out of Spring Training.
But he is also very much in the moment, enjoying another day in the baseball sun.
“It’s been good … kind of like riding a bike,” Wright said this morning. “I’ve been through plenty of Spring Trainings, so more than anything, I’m just excited to be back in the clubhouse, being around the guys, doing what I love to do — and that’s throwing a baseball and getting on a mound and pretty soon trying to get outs.”
It’s hard to ignore the improbability of his ultimate quest, but Wright does have this much in his favor. He’s only two seasons removed from posting a 3.09 ERA in 70 innings with Tampa Bay (followed by a 4.35 ERA in 2014 with the Dodgers). Moreover, his 2015 sabbatical, however unplanned, had its just rewards.
“When I say I didn’t throw, I didn’t throw and I didn’t really do anything,” Wright said. “I’d just been working out my entire life, so there wasn’t a lot of motivation. I wanted to rest my body, and I did. But once I started throwing, then I started getting back into it. The only reason I did that was because I felt so good when I was throwing … it kind of bled into throwing off the mound and feeling really good off the mound, and here I am.”
Wright also believes it’s significant that resiliency has been his calling card.
“I never needed bounce-back time,” he said. “That was kind of the beauty of me. … I wasn’t the guy who was going to go up there and throw a 1.60 ERA, but you know what, I was the guy who would take the ball every single day. I’d take one for the team, and I don’t dodge teams, I don’t dodge ballparks. I’ll go out there anytime, any day and throw. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I mean, I love to be out there – it’s what I love to do.”
With the Dodgers, who twirled a couple dozen players between their big-league and minor-league teams last year like they were on a merry-go-round, making the Opening Day roster is not the be-all and end-all. That would seem tailor-made for Wright, whose value could come over the long haul. His home state of Texas even borders the Dodgers’ top farm team in Oklahoma City.
But Wright was non-committal about whether that kind of season was in the cards for him.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll talk about that when the time comes. Right now, more than anything, I’m just getting my body and my arm ready to go for another Opening Day. That’s the goal, to be with this team and help this team — that’s why I’m here. Even this offseason, when I thought I was done, I still had dreams of pitching in a World Series. I’ve had (that dream) for so long, I still in the back of my mind think that it’s going happen, and I haven’t let go of that hope and that’s why I’m here.”
On Thursday, Wright’s wife and three kids arrive in Arizona, starting spring break early to root their big right-hander on.
“They’re excited,” Wright said. “They wanted me to come back and try to continue to pitch. … It was either now or never, so I thought I owed that to myself.
“I wasn’t real happy about how it ended last year. I was caught off guard. I felt I was ready to go last year, (but) I know the nature of the business and I’m here to do the best that I can. My guard’s definitely up this year. We’ll see. Hopefully, it’s one of those Hollywood endings.”