Story: Jamey Wright’s path to the postseason continues

ST. PETERSBURG – When Jamey Wright closes his eyes and allows his mind to dream, he sees himself on the mound.

That’s not unusual, considering the 38-year-old Tampa Bay reliever has played parts of 18 seasons in the major leauges and has appeared in more than 640 games.

But there’s something different about this time.

The fans seem louder, the crowd (surprisingly) is larger and the intensity is heightened.

Then when he snaps back into it and looks at the calendar, Wright sees that he’s one day closer to that happening in the journeyman’s hopes of finally taking part in the MLB playoffs.

“It’s something I’ve looked forward to for a long time, and hopefully this will be the year,” Wright said. “I’ve dreamt about it forever and ever. I see myself out there and doing well.

“I remember when I was young and pitching against the Braves – or all the good teams – how I would pitch against the good teams and I’d do really well. I’d like to think in that situation with the biggest stage, that’s where I want to be.”

Barring an almost unprecedented collapse, Wright would likely get his chance assuming the Rays can at least get to the American League Division Series. But even the fact that he’s able to take part in meaningful games in late August made Wright reflect on his previous stops.

“How much fun this is, I feel like I’ve been cheated,” Wright said as if he couldn’t believe how bad of luck he’s had. “I feel like I’ve been cheating not getting to play in games like this where you’re hanging on every pitch and watching the board to see what everybody is doing.”

As a non-roster spring training invite this year, there was no guarantee Wright would be in his current situation. But as he had done the previous seven years, Wright, a ground ball specialist that fits the Tampa Bay mold, made the squad.

Though he hasn’t pitched in the most high-pressure situations, he has made the most of the opportunities he’s gotten. His 56 1/3 innings are the seventh highest on the team, leading to a 2-2 record and 3.04 ERA.

With his personal success and the team’s, combined with the fun clubhouse atmosphere, Wright said this has been his most memorable season.

“It came at the perfect time,” Wright said. “In the last three or four years, I’ve learned to really enjoy it more… This is such a good group of guys and clubhouse, I really cherish the conversations and the friendships. It means everything to me.”

How much longer Wright can keep on going remains to be seen.

He could see that the experience has re-energized him to keep going, or maybe pitching in October will be enough for him to call it quits. Then again, it may not even be his decision to make as a team will have to request his services.

Wright hinted what his preference would be.

“I’d go until my wife tells me to stop probably,” he joked. “I feel like my stuff is as good as it’s ever been. I’m not the guy that’s going to throw 94 or 96 anymore, but I don’t need it. I’d like to think I’m getting smarter, but probably not. But I love the game whether I’m pitching well or getting my butt kicked out there.”

Then he sounded more certain. After all, he has to have something to dream about and somewhere to go when he wakes up.

“I never want to get off that mound and will do it as long as they let me,” Wright said.

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