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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jim Wright, Bad Breaks - Then and Then

This post concerns Jim Wright's playing career, for his coaching career, click here: Jim Wright, Good Tip

Jim Wright had already sat out one season due to injury. Now, in spring 1979, it was obvious his major league debut would have to wait again, if it would ever happen.

He broke a bone in his throwing arm in an exhibition game, The Associated Press wrote. He had been seen as as good candidate to make Philadelphia's big league roster.

"I'll be back next year," Wright told The AP. "I'll go back home and join my family. It was just something I had no control over. I'm a believer in the good Lord. I'll keep my faith. I won't give up."

Wright didn't give up. And he did return. He made his major league debut two seasons later, with the Royals. Wright went on to pitch in two big league seasons, part of a professional playing career that spanned a decade. He's gone on to a coaching career that's spanned a quarter century.

Wright's playing career began in 1973, taken by the Phillies in the fifth round of the draft out of high school. He played his first two seasons at rookie league and short season. He made single-A Spartanburg in 1975, going 14-7 that year with a 2.73 ERA.

He did even better the next season at AA Reading. Wright went 13-5 with a 2.39 ERA. Wright kept it up in 1977, going 14-6 with a 3.13 ERA at AAA Oklahoma City. Then his health problems set in.

It was as the 1977 season came to a close that Wright suffered a pinched nerve, The AP wrote. Still, he was seen as a top prospect. If he stayed healthy, he was seen as a part of the major league team.

"I think I can do the job now," Wright told The AP in March 1978. "If they go out and trade for a pitcher, it will be my fault. It will mean they gave me the ball, gave me time to showcase, and I didn't make the grade."

That was before he injured his arm again, losing his first full season, then lost his second full season to arm injury the next season.

Back on the mound for 1980, Wright spent the season back at Oklahoma City. This time, he went 9-9 with a 5.35 ERA. And, as the major league Phillies played in and won the World Series against the Royals, the one-time top prospect could only watch.

"It's strange," Wright told The St. Petersburg Times that October, "because I know that if I was healthy I'd be a part of that."

Wright ended up being a part of that the next season, but with the Phillies World Series foes. The Royals selected Wright in the Rule 5 draft.

Wright debuted with the Royals as a reliever April 22, a 2.1 inning outing against Cleveland. He gave up four hits, but no runs. His bad luck, however, wasn't over. His first major league start was scheduled for June 12, 1981, the day the players went out on strike.

He didn't get that start until Sept. 14, a 3.1-inning outing, where he gave up two runs. Wright ended up going 2-3 on the year with a 3.46 ERA. He had 17 appearances, four of those starts.

Wright returned to Kansas City in 1982, getting 7 relief appearances, his last coming in May. Wright played one more season, back in the minors after being traded to the Cubs.

Wright has gone on to a career as a coach, starting with the Cubs in 1984, then later back with the Phillies at AAA Scranton by 1990. He's spent the past 14 seasons with the Rockies, continuing in 2011 as the Colorado bullpen coach.

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