UH pitcher hopes he has 'Wright' stuff
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
After wrapping up games most of last season and during the summer, junior right-hander Steven Wright will start this season for Hawai'i.
Wright is tomorrow's starting pitcher for the Rainbows' season opener against former Western Athletic Conference rival San Diego State. Game time is 6:35 p.m. It is the first of a four-game series with the Aztecs, who are picked to finish second in the Mountain West Conference.
"It's not too big of a difference," said Wright of his starting role. "I just have to go out there with the same mindset that I had in the bullpen and just take it in the first (inning) instead of the sixth or seventh."
In his first two seasons with UH, he made only nine starts in 39 appearances. He started twice last season, but came out of the bullpen the other 19 times, recording a team-leading four saves with a 5-3 record and a 3.26 earned run average. He struck out 75 with 15 walks in 66 1/3 innings. He followed that with an incredible summer, going 3-0 with a 0.63 ERA and 12 saves in helping the Orleans Cardinals win the Cape Cod League championship.
"That was fun," Wright said of his summer gig. "Every time you go in, the game was on the line."
He will have to adjust from making one- or two-inning stints to pitching once a week for longer durations. Still, Wright plans to bring the same mentality to the mound.
"I'm not going to try to pace myself," he said. "I have to try to make it to the sixth or seventh, but if I pace myself, I probably won't be as effective as if I go out and give everything I got."
Pitching coach Chad Konishi said Wright has slowly increased his innings in workouts to get him prepared for the longer haul.
Although this would be considered a crucial season for Wright — he is eligible for the draft after this season — his mind is set on one thing: Winning the WAC. The title would also bring what the Rainbows covet: a regional berth.
"I'm just going out there to play ball and everything else will take care of itself," he said.
Wright will be matched against the Aztecs' ace of last season in junior right-hander Bruce Billings (6-5, 3.85 ERA).
Junior college transfer Ian Harrington, a left-hander, is slated to start Thursday for UH with another southpaw, Mark Rodrigues, set for Friday. Saturday's starter has yet to be determined. San Diego State is scheduled to start junior right-hander Justin Masterson on Thursday.
The Aztecs are coached by a familiar face in Tony Gwynn. As an Aztec, he played basketball and baseball against Hawai'i in the late 1970s. He is also remembered here because he played one season with the Triple-A Hawaii Islanders, when they were affiliated with the San Diego Padres.
Hawai'i is coming off a 15-1 romp of its Alumni on Saturday. The Aztecs also crushed their Alumni, 22-2, on Saturday.
A couple of Rainbows have done things to make them feel better physically this season. Outfielder Robbie Wilder, who has been prone to all sorts of injuries the past two years, has taken yoga classes.
"It helps with my shoulder and hamstrings," he said.
A healthy Wilder will be running and beating out choppers and bunts.
Also, catcher Esteban Lopez is looking a bit trimmer after cutting about 10 to 15 pounds since playing in the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League last summer. He said he changed his eating habits and started more cardiovascular workouts. No one told him to lose the weight, he said.
"I just feel healthier," he said. "My body feels much better."
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.