By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
5:31 PM EDT, March 20, 2012
Hoping to receive more clarity concerning hisnagging left shoulder injury, Orioles pitcher Zach Britton will see renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday morning.
The 24-year-old lefty seems resigned to starting the season on the disabled list — something that had been anticipated as the exhibition season continued without Britton throwing a pitch in a major league game.
“Unless things are perfect tomorrow — I talk to Andrews and he doesn’t see anything — then maybe,” Britton said. “But as of right now I am going to take the cautious stance of I’d rather be ready at the middle of April, end of April, then start the season with the team and then, all of the sudden, two weeks, three weeks later, we are dealing with this situation again. So I just want to get it taken care of right now, and if it costs me a couple weeks, so be it.”
Britton has been dealing off and on with inflammation and soreness in his left shoulder since last season and had been treated by team orthopedist John Wilckens. Britton threw two innings Thursday in a minor-league game and felt fine. On Saturday, the pain returned.
“I just want to get someone else to look at it. We have done treatment since August on it and some of the same issues keep popping back up, so I want to see what he has to say,” said Britton, who missed part of August due to a left shoulder strain. “Obviously, he has seen thousands of shoulders so maybe he can give us a better idea of what we need to do to make it go away.”
With Britton out and Alfredo Simon limited because of a groin injury, the Orioles’ starting rotation for April is becoming clearer. Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, Jake Arrieta and Tommy Hunter, assuming he rebounds well from a lower back injury during his big-league exhibition debut Wednesday, are penciled in.
Lefty Brian Matusz, who allowed one run in five innings Tuesday in his fourth spring appearance, appears to have the upper hand for the remaining spot.
Although it is the likelihood, Orioles manager Buck Showalter isn’t officially counting Britton out for the start of the season.
“I’m not going to yet,” Showalter said.
Showalter also is not revealing the order — or specific members — of his rotation, though he and his coaching staff, medical staff and the front office were scheduled to meet after Tuesday’s game to discuss the roster. More cuts should be announced Wednesday.
A MRI taken Feb. 8 revealed no tears in Britton’s shoulder, so at this point surgery is not considered an option. More will be known after he consults with Andrews, who is one of the country’s leading experts on pitchers’ arms.
“It’s the last-case scenario,” Britton said of seeing Andrews. “Obviously, Dr. Wilckens has been working with me for a while. ... They’ve kind of been working together. They have already talked on the phone [Tuesday]. ... Obviously, I don’t want to do it. I want to be on the field pitching. I don’t want to go waste time and see doctors, but it’s kind of what we have to do.”
Britton went 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA in 28 starts as a rookie last year. He expects to stay in Sarasota at the beginning of April to work on his rehab.
This spring for Britton has been 180 degrees from last year, when he took the camp by storm and eventually forced his way onto the roster when Matusz was placed on the disabled list before the first game.
Britton is frustrated by the fact there is no concrete reason for the inflammation — no tears have been found in the shoulder — but he’s buoyed by the fact that it feels better than it did in August.
“I have made progress, it’s not as severe as it was during the season,” Britton said. “It’s tough to say, because my velocity is the same as it was during the season. My command is fine. It is not affecting those things. I’ll have three good weeks and then it pops back up. So it is hard to say whether I have really made an improvement or not. It’s something that keeps creeping back up, and we don’t know how to control it.”
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