The full-count changeup that drifted over the plate in the third inning was a microcosm of Jaret Wright's bad night. Brian Roberts smacked the pitch off the right-field foul pole, and Wright's Yankee debut was on its way to becoming a mess.
He left without getting an out in the fifth inning and was booed as he departed. Perhaps Yankee fans were just getting warmed up for later catcalls on an all-around ugly night that ended in a 12-5 loss to the Orioles.
Booing is in vogue at the Stadium, and Wright was treated as if he were Mariano Rivera after a blown save against Boston. Alex Rodriguez was also booed when he capped an 0 for 5 night by grounding out with the bases loaded in the eighth and Bernie Williams heard a few jeers after he ran his season-opening slide to 0 for 12.
Joe Torre seemed more understanding of fans' hooting Friday night than he was when they booed Rivera after the closer blew another save against the Red Sox Wednesday. "That's what happens," Torre said. "You can't give up a bunch of runs and expect any other reception. But things turn easily here."
They would for Wright if he had pitched like either of his fellow newcomers to the Yankee rotation, Randy Johnson and Carl Pavano. Both had strong debuts this week, setting up a can-you-top-this of sorts. Wright couldn't.
He allowed eight hits and six runs in four-plus innings and lacked control of his low-90s fastball. Throughout the spring, Wright had command of his signature pitch, but when he threw it Friday night, it caught chunks of the plate instead of slivers.
"Location was the big key," Wright said. "I didn't walk guys, but there were pitches out over the plate and big league hitters are going to hit them."
It didn't happen for the Yankee bullpen, either, and that could be dangerous come October. Four relievers combined to allow 10 hits and five runs in five innings.
Plenty of credit should go to the Orioles' bats. Even without the offseason addition of Sammy Sosa, they could mash, and Friday night Baltimore had 18 hits and easily erased a 1-0 Yankee lead. Roberts was 3 for 5 with an RBI triple and an RBI single, Luis Matos had a triple, double and single and two RBI, Miguel Tejada was 3 for 5 with two RBI and Javy Lopez had two RBI.
Sidney Ponson pitched into the sixth for Baltimore, allowing eight hits and three runs.