Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 3/17/12
GLENDALE, Ariz. At the age of 37, having spent the bulk of the past 16 years in the big leagues, Jamey Wright finds himself a non-roster invitee to spring training again. This is the seventh spring in a row that Wright has accepted an invite, no guarantees attached, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are the sixth team in that seven-year stretch to bring Wright to camp for a look-see. No records are kept, but it seems likely that Wright would be the first player to have been willing to take the invited route in hopes of making a big league team seven years in a row. "I want to be the first 20-year big leaguer to sign 10 minor league contracts in a row," Wright said with a smile. Wright has reason to smile. Each of the past six years, he has made good on the invitation, opening the season in the big leagues with San Francisco (2006), Texas (2007 and 2008), Kansas City (2009), Cleveland (2010) and Seattle (2011). During those six years, he has pitched only 14 minor league games 10 of those came in 2010, when he was released by the Indians in midseason and signed with Seattle. That's why Wright is at ease with the challenge he faces with the Dodgers. "It would be different if I spent a majority of the time (the past six years) in the minor leagues," he said. What has been different for Wright has been his role. A first-round draft choice of the Colorado Rockies in 1993, the right-hander, who as a rookie was given the nickname Big Handsome by Rockies teammate Marvin Freeman, was a key part of the rotation in Colorado for his first four years and then three more years in Milwaukee. In the past 10 years, when he has spent time with nine teams, including a reunion with Colorado, has made the transition to a reliever. After making only 34 relief appearances in his first 280 big league appearances, he has worked in relief in his last 246 big league games. "It's the same thing every year," he said. "I made the team as a possible long man, possible middle reliever, and I end up pitching important innings later in the game, the seventh and eighth. I have the type of arm I can be a two-inning setup man. "I do what they need me to do. I've become very comfortable with the bullpen. I feel like I am able to pitch every day. I don't think I have ever had to take a day off because of my arm." A key is that Wright checked his ego at the door, a long time ago. "I pitched my first four years in Colorado," Wright said. "That helps you get over the ego. That helps you learn that what matters is what you can do to help your team win. And I mean that in a positive way. It was good for me to get my priorities in order." And so Wright keeps plugging away, not even thinking about retirement, even though he turned 37 on Christmas Eve. "I love the game and I love pitching," he said. "I love to compete. I am blessed that I have been able to stay healthy, and not had a serious arm problem or shoulder surgery." ON HOLD With less than three weeks remaining until Opening Day, the question about Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew is not whether he will be ready for the start of the season. That's out of the question. Recovering from a broken ankle suffered while sliding into home plate on July 20 last season, Drew hasn't been able to run bases yet. The broken ankle can be slow in healing because of the damage in the joint and to the ligaments. The Los Angeles Angels learned that with Kendrys Morales, who broke his ankle on May 29, 2010, and has not been in a big league game since. He underwent a second surgery last season, and finally this spring all indications are he is ready to return. The return of Drew is critical for Arizona. The Diamondbacks won the NL West last year despite the loss of Drew thanks to manager Kirk Gibson's balancing act between Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald at short. The idea of being able to do that over a complete season, however, is not realistic. Drew, after all, is not only an elite defensive shortstop, but he also was settling into the cleanup spot in the Arizona lineup, behind Justin Upton, a year ago. SECOND THOUGHT The Bay Area is the only two-team market in which there are territorial rights, which is at the root of the ongoing battle between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's, who want to move to San Jose. The Giants have blocked the move and point out that they were given the rights to the San Jose area as part of their decision to build AT&T Park with private funding. They feel that area is critical for marketing purposes. The Giants also point out that the current A's ownership knew about the territorial rights when it purchased the A's, and in fact bought the franchise at a reduced price because of the concession that was made to the Giants. LASTING LEGACY Frank McCourt's ownership of the Dodgers is in its final days. He, however, will have a lasting legacy the sun that beats down on the spring training complex in Glendale, Ariz. There is very little shaded seating at the park. The original plan was to have most of the paying customers sheltered from the sun, but McCourt wanted to be able to look out at the mountains from the owner's box, so architects turned the ballpark. That allowed for the view from ownership boxes (but not the grandstand seats) and opened the way for a sun-baked crowd. CURIOUS Unanswered question in Oakland is why general manager Billy Beane opted to sign Manny Ramirez instead of retaining Hideki Matsui, a clubhouse favorite. . . . The impressive part of 15 teams now training in Arizona is that after the 1992 season, when Cleveland left Tucson for Winter Haven, Fla., there were only seven remaining teams in Arizona. The general feel is that if the expansion Colorado Rockies opted to train in Florida, it would have led to the end of the Cactus League. The interesting part of the growth in Arizona is that, in 2010, the Indians actually returned to Arizona and now share a spring facility with Cincinnati. . . . Tony La Russa is touring spring camps as a representative of Major League Baseball. In talking to him, it seems apparent that La Russa will be back working for a team before too long. A legendary manager, La Russa seems ready to take a new challenge in the front office, although he said nothing is in the works.
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