Orioles starting pitcher Zach Britton is still experiencing inflammation in his left shoulder and will start spring trainingwith a progressive throwing program, but he and the team expect he'll be ready to compete for a rotation spot.
The 24-year-old left-hander who was 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA in 28 starts as a rookie last year said he has dealt with lingering inflammation since he was placed on the disabled list last August. He said he has taken anti-inflammatory medication and rested, but the soreness wasn’t improving.
He was examined again and underwent an MRI, which came back negative for any structural damage. Last Wednesday, Britton said, he was placed on a different medication, his arm is feeling better and he expects to throw from 90 feet Thursday in Sarasota, Fla.
If all goes well, he will continue the throwing progression and believes, at most, he’ll be “one or two” bullpen sessions behind the other pitchers, who have their first official workout in Sarasota on Sunday.
“I’m anxious to throw [Thursday], I’m feeling really good,” Britton said. “Once spring training games start, assuming everything goes well, I’ll be 100 percent and ready to go.”
Britton said it’s possible he rushed back last August and again this winter, but his motives were pure.
“Maybe I didn’t give [the shoulder] enough time, but it’s hard to blame me for doing that,” Britton said. “I really want to win a job, and I really want to help this team out. And I know how hard you have to work for it.”
Britton is not a lock to make a wide-open starting rotation, but he is certainly in the mix -- and likely a favorite -- for landing one of the five spots.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he doesn’t think Britton’s chances of making the rotation are altered dramatically by a gradual start to the spring.
“I don’t foresee anything different at this point. That could change, obviously, but he just had some soreness that a lot of guys have at this time of year,” Showalter said. “I have no reason to believe he won’t, at this point, be part of our competition and the part of the progression [for a starting spot].”
XM talk show host and former Orioles executive Jim Duquette first reported that Britton would be slowed at the start of spring because of shoulder issues and speculated that it could hurt his chances of making the Opening Day team.
The Orioles and new executive vice president Dan Duquette, Jim’s cousin, issued a statement saying the club is monitoring Britton’s progression.