Orioles send down struggling Wright, add Duensing to bullpen

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BALTIMORE — Sorting through their current mess of a pitching staff, the Orioles optioned right-hander Mike Wright to Triple-A Norfolk and selected the contract of lefty reliever Brian Duensing on Thursday.

After making the club out of spring training as the No. 4 starter, Wright had failed to complete six innings in four of his last five outings and allowed a career-high four home runs in just 2 2/3 innings against Boston on Wednesday. His season ERA had risen to a robust 5.88 in 49 innings that included nine starts.

Manager Buck Showalter said the 26-year-old will start for the Tides on Monday and emphasized that he would remain a starter when asked if Wright could be moved to a bullpen role as many have suggested.

“I know he spent the day looking at the tape of all of his starts in the big leagues,” Showalter said. “He’s in the process of becoming a good pitcher for us up here. Mike’s going to be a good starter for the Baltimore Orioles. That’s what I feel. Today is part of the process. A lot of guys come up and they get a little better each time. We’re hoping the next time Mike comes up that we won’t need this move to be made.

“He’ll contribute to our club this year as a starter. I really believe that.”

Despite possessing a good fastball, Wright hasn’t been able to consistently command his off-speed pitches and has struggled against lefties, who are batting .369 with four homers and a 1.028 on-base plus slugging percentage against him this year. He has held right-handed bats to a .234 average.

It remains unclear who would immediately take Wright’s spot in the rotation with T.J. McFarland and Vance Worley being the two logical candidates currently on the active roster.

The roster move came on the same day that Yovani Gallardo was making his first minor-league rehab start and the struggling Ubaldo Jimenez was taking the hill against the powerful Red Sox lineup. At Single-A Frederick, Gallardo pitched three innings, allowing three runs and seven hits while walking two and striking out four.

Showalter reiterated on Thursday that the plan was for Gallardo to make at least two rehab starts, meaning he wouldn’t be ready to be activated to take Wright’s next turn in the rotation on Monday.

The 33-year-old Duensing adds an experienced left-handed reliever to a club that parted ways with Brian Matusz last month. Beginning the year in Kansas City’s organization, Duensing had opted out of his minor-league deal to join the Orioles and had thrown three scoreless innings for the Tides.

He had spent his entire career with the Minnesota Twins prior to this year, serving exclusively as a reliever since 2013. In 48 2/3 innings for the Twins last season, Duensing pitched to a 4.25 ERA with 4.4 strikeouts and 3.9 walks per nine innings.

He holds a 4.13 career ERA in seven major league seasons.