By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) - The Cleveland Indians declined to pick up their 2003 contract option for pitcher Jaret Wright, a former postseason star whose career has been sidetracked by injuries.
Wright, who has been on the disabled list seven times since 1999, declined to be outrighted and will file for free agency, the Indians said.
Cleveland had a $6 million option for '03 on the right-hander.
Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said the team could possibly sign Wright (pictured pitching, above) as a free agent.
"I think based on the injuries that he went through the past couple of years, what we wanted to do was decline the option but maintain the possibility of signing him back," Shapiro said Wednesday.
Wright is open to the idea of returning to the Indians as a free agent, Shapiro said.
"I believe he'll be a successful major league pitcher again," Shapiro said.
The 26-year-old Wright spent the first half of last season on the disabled list with shoulder problems. He has undergone two surgeries on the shoulder since June of 2000 and had an operation on his elbow in 2001.
In six starts for the Indians last season, Wright went 2-3 with a 15.71 ERA. He was tagged for 40 hits and 32 earned runs in just 18 1-3 innings. Wright split the second half between Cleveland and Triple-A Buffalo.
The Indians had hoped Wright would recapture some of the magic that made him a rising star in 1997.
As a 21-year-old rookie, Wright beat the New York Yankees twice in the AL playoffs. He went on to start Game 7 of the World Series against Florida, becoming the second youngest pitcher to start a decisive Series game.
After going 12-10 in 1998, Wright began to break down. He was sidelined by back and shoulder injuries in '99 and went just 8-10 with a 6.06 ERA. Wright made only nine starts for the Indians in 2000 before having a torn labrum repaired in his shoulder and missed the remainder of the season.
Wright spent the next two years bouncing from Akron (Double-A) to Buffalo and Cleveland.
The Indians had been encouraged by Wright's progress this past season. His fastball was still being clocked as high as 96 mph and he had modified his delivery to take strain off his arm and shoulder.
Cleveland drafted Wright in the first round (10th overall) in the 1994 draft. Wright's father, Clyde, pitched for 10 years in the majors from 1966-75.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)