By Eduardo A. Encina
8:57 PM EDT, August 8, 2012
The Orioles optioned struggling left-hander Zach Britton to Triple-A Norfolk early Wednesday morning after he allowed seven runs (four earned) over five-plus innings Tuesday night.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Britton was optioned not based on performance but because the club needed to call up right-hander Steve Johnson to start Wednesday’s game. The Orioles used all available bullpen arms besides closer Jim Johnson on Tuesday, and right-hander Tommy Hunter, originally Wednesday’s scheduled starter, was warming up when the Orioles won the game in the 14th.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable for Tommy after getting hot last night to get ready to come into that game, which he had to do, that it was fair for him to start the game,” Showalter said.
Britton fell behind 3-0 in the first inning on Kyle Seager’s three-run homer, which came after Britton committed a fielding error on the first batter of the game and Wilson Betemit couldn’t come up with a two-out grounder to third.
“I think it was more convenience,” Showalter said of sending Britton down. “I thought Zach threw the ball better last night, and if that was able to carry him deeper into the game and were able to play nine innings, he’d probably still be here. I think he’d be the first to tell you, if he makes that play in the first inning and Wilson comes up with that other one, we’re talking about a whole different outing, but it didn’t. It didn’t happen. I thought he was a little crisper and in the zone a little more. He had a good slider.”
Britton has given up four of more runs and failed to go six innings in four of his five starts this season. He’s allowed 17 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings over his last three starts for an 11.48 ERA. He also had given up 13 runs in the first two innings of his last three starts.
Showalter said Hunter would likely slide into Britton’s spot in the rotation Sunday, presuming he didn’t need to be used in long-relief duty Wednesday.
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