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Kyle Wright looking to build off of breakout 2022 season

Wright came into the 2022 season just looking to claim a rotation spot. In 2023, the Braves will be counting on him for even more.

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Kyle Wright went to Spring Training in 2022 hoping to parlay a strong showing in the World Series into a spot in the Atlanta Braves rotation. To that point, there had been plenty of ups and downs to Wright’s career, but after a full season at Triple A and a strong postseason run, the hope was that this was finally the time. Not only did he claim a rotation spot, but Wright became one of Atlanta’s most consistent options logging 30 starts while piling up a career-high 180 1/3 innings. He put up a 3.19 ERA and a 3.58 FIP while bumping his strikeout rate up to a career-best 23.6% while becoming the first Braves pitcher to win 20 games since Russ Ortiz in 2003.

In short, Wright looked like a different pitcher than the one that seemed to wilt in the light of previous opportunities. That wasn’t something that was lost on him and he carried that good feeling into the offseason.

“You definitely feel a lot better about yourself, that’s for sure,” Wright said of how this offseason has felt different than the ones in the past. “For me as long as you like, kind of reflect on things that I did and really be proud whereas you know, years past, sometimes you’re like, man, I’m so close, but so far the same time. But this year, finally putting together a good season from start to finish was definitely gratifying for me. Team wise, still had a sour taste, early exit. So, from that standpoint it’s definitely a little sour. Selfishly looking back at my season, I was really proud of myself. I like that feeling of pitching well and having success. So, I wanted to take that into this offseason and try to do it again next year.”

When the Braves head to camp in the coming weeks, there will be a different look on the infield. Wright and Dansby Swanson crossed paths briefly at Vanderbilt, but the two continued to train there during the offseason. Wright said that he will no doubt miss having Swanson around, but he is happy for him as he moves on to Chicago.

“One for me, just a bummer. Just because he’s a great friend and good teammate. At the same time, super happy for him,” Wright said of Swanson. “He got an unbelievable deal with a great team and a good city. I know we’re all happy for him. We’re going to miss him here big time, just for a lot of different reasons.”

While it is unclear who will ultimately take over for Swanson at shortstop, it looks like Vaughn Grissom will at least get the first shot. For Wright, who posted a career-high 55.6% ground ball rate in 2022, having confidence in the defense behind him is really important.

“It’s a big deal. Especially this year with no shift so that’s going to be a big component,” Wright said of the situation at shortstop. “I’ve played with Orlando a lot and I know he’s defensively as good as anyone. So he can pick it. I know Vaughn. Vaughn is such a good athlete. He’s going to be good too. As you all know, he’s been working with Wash and Wash is as good as anyone out there as an infield coach. It’s huge for pitchers to have guys out there you can trust. Thankfully, we have a really good infield who can pick it and make the plays. It’s important, but I have a lot of confidence in our guys for sure.”

The Braves will head into the spring with a high degree of certainty in their rotation. Wright is expected to join a group of Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Spencer Strider. Several pitchers will compete for the fifth spot including Ian Anderson and Mike Soroka.

“We got a lot of good talent obviously,” Wright said of the rotation. “It starts with Max. Max has been incredible. He’s kind of our leader, kind of makes us go. Then Strider might have 400 strikeouts this year starting from the very beginning. I’m excited to see him have a full year, starting from the very jump. Then obviously Chuck. Chuck has been the same and he’s going to give us a lot of wins. We have a lot of other guys too that we’re excited about. The talent is there and just got to try to continue to put it together.”

Wright didn’t weigh in on the competition for the fifth spot, but he was asked if it would be a surprise to see Mike Soroka return to form after battling injury for the last two seasons.

“I don’t think it’d be a surprise. I think Soroka, he’s had some bad luck, but he’s one of the hardest workers in that locker room,” Wright said. “He’s going to do everything in his power to get back to who he was. If he does, that’s going to be tough for a lot of teams. Because as we all know, he has the stuff, he has the mentality. When he’s healthy, he’s going to be a tough guy to face. I would never count Mike Soroka out just based off his work ethic alone and who he is as a person. I think we’re just excited to have him back.”

This spring will be a different situation for Wright. Last year he hoped just to find a spot. Now, the Braves are counting on him to produce and help solidify what should be one of the best rotations in baseball. While on the surface it felt like just about everything broke Wright’s way in 2022, he thinks there are still things that he can improve on.

“I still felt like I left a lot on the table last year. I feel like there were some outings that still really got away from me that shouldn’t have,” Wright said. “That’s kind of the good thing. I had a good year, but I still feel like there was so much more that I could have done that was a little bit better. I think for me, knowing that I still have that room to continue to grow and get better. I think that’s what continues to push me. I don’t ever want to settle. I want to continue to try to be the best pitcher I can be and try to continue to win as many games as I can. I think that’s kind of what pushed me. There is still a lot left on the table.”

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