Over the first two weeks of the season, left-hander Zach Britton has become a valuable weapon for the Orioles out of the bullpen.
Britton provided more evidence of that during the Orioles' 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon, tossing three shutout innings to serve as the bridge between starter Miguel Gonzalez and closer Tommy Hunter.
Britton, a former starter who made the full-time move to the bullpen this spring, has not allowed a run through 11 1/3 innings this season.
"The first weapon is he can get right-handed and left-handed hitters out," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said about Britton. "That's huge for a reliever. He's in a good place right now, and you can see it presentation-wise as much as physically."
Even though five of Britton's six relief appearances this year have been at least two innings, Wednesday's outing was the first time he pitched three frames.
"I think the multiple innings, for me, is more natural than the short bursts," Britton said. "I think, just being able to do anything out of the bullpen, I think, really helps the team. There are still some adjustments I need to make, command every now and then."
Britton worked his way out of a seventh-inning jam after issuing a one-out walk to pinch-hitter Logan Forsythe and then giving up back-to-back singles to load the bases. But he utilized his sinker to get a force out at home plate on a grounder to third base off the bat of Ben Zobrist and then struck out Wil Myers to end the inning.
"I had that walk that almost turned into a jam, so there are still some things I need to fine tune out of the bullpen," Britton said. "But so far so good."
Britton tossed perfect innings in the sixth and eighth innings. Of the nine outs he recorded Wednesday, seven were groundballs and two were strikeouts.
Although he hadn't pitched a three-inning stint this season — even in spring training — until Wednesday, Britton said his experience as a starter helped.
"I've done it for so long, but I think it's the recovery time, if anything," Britton said. "It's not necessarily being out there today and throwing three innings. It's how am I going to feel tomorrow? How am I going to feel the next day. That's what's it's about.
"But the ups and downs, I'm so used to that now, that after starting my whole life, that's not much of an issue."
Showalter on 'honor' of playing in Boston
Showalter usually isn't shy about mentioning the challenges of the Orioles' schedule.
But he said Wednesday that — despite a quick turnaround during the team's four-game series in Boston as part of the annual Patriots' Day festivities — it is an honor that the club can be a part of a special day.
The Orioles and Boston Red Sox will play Monday at 11:05 a.m., the traditional start time on the day of the Boston Marathon, after playing a 7:05 p.m. game on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball the night before at Fenway Park.
It undoubtedly will be an emotional day in the city because it will mark the first Boston Marathon since two bombs exploded near the race's finish line last year, killing three and wounding 264 others.
"I think this year, especially with what that day means to our country, to Boston, and to everybody, in particular, I think it's an honor to be there for that," Showalter said. "I really do. Regardless of the competitive part of it.
"We are both doing the same thing. For what that day represents to Boston, and all our country, I consider it, we all consider it, an honor to be lucky enough to have the schedule fall that way. I think we are all looking forward to paying the respect due there."
Sunday's game was actually moved ahead one hour to account for the early start Monday. ESPN's Sunday night games usually begin at 8:05 p.m.