Orioles closer Zach Britton threw his first live batting practice session at Camden Yards before Tuesday night’s game, taking another significant step toward his return from a ruptured Achilles tendon that’s kept him sidelined all season.
In front of a crowd watching from behind the cage that included manager Buck Showalter, head athletic trainer Brian Ebel and team orthopedist Dr. Michael Jacobs, Britton threw 15 pitches to simulate an inning, facing one hitter — outfielder Craig Gentry — and completed his work with a fielding session.
“I just faced Gentry,” Britton said. “That was good just to get a hitter in there who's swinging. You get a better read on that. I threw some good sinkers, spun a couple breaking balls, just another step in the right direction.”
Britton will likely get two days off, then throw another live BP that includes two sessions of 15 pitches with a break in between to simulate pitching multiple innings. After that, Britton would likely do a one-inning simulated game before he’s able to go on a minor league rehabilitation assignment, something Britton said he might be able to begin by the time the Orioles return home Memorial Day from their three-city road trip.
“I would assume probably the next homestand, but I've got a couple [more things], one more live BP, a few sim games I think, then we'll sit down and talk again,” Britton said. “But pretty soon. It's right around the corner.
“The goal [now] is just to get the delivery where I want it to be and continue to feel good with the sinker and breaking ball — things you'd do in the spring. Continue to get a feel for my pitches, command the ball, stuff like that. Injury stuff is hopefully in the past, and we won't have to deal with it. Now, it's just about getting back to helping the team.”
O’Day getting close to return
Right-handed reliever Darren O’Day, who is eligible to be activated from the disabled list from a hyperextended elbow Wednesday, won’t be able to return by then, but Showalter said he should be active shortly thereafter.
O’Day threw on Monday’s day off for the first time since landing on the DL, and he’s scheduled to throw again Wednesday. If that session goes well, O’Day should be available to return sometime during this weekend’s series in Boston.
“I’m hoping that tomorrow’s throwing goes well and we’re thinking about it not too long after that,” Showalter said. “He’s making progress.”
O’Day, who had assumed the few ninth-inning save opportunities the club had before going on the DL, was injured when someone ran into him while he was stretching in the bullpen earlier this homestand.
Showalter willing to be a part of a rebuild?
The Phillies endured five straight losing seasons before experiencing success in the early part of this season — they came to Camden Yards seven games above .500 and 1 ½ games out of first in the National League East — invoking the question of whether Showalter would be willing to be a part of such a rebuild.
“I think in a perfect world, you’d be able to keep kind of building it from within and augmenting where you need to augment,” said Showalter, who is in the final year of his contract with the team. “Right now, I’m focused on trying to beat the Phillies tonight and trying to get back in this thing, and where it takes us, it takes us. And I’m in on any approach that involves the Orioles being good consistently. I’d like to think we have the answers right here.”
Showalter said that some of the high draft picks the Phillies have had — he mentioned right-hander Aaron Nola, who was the seventh overall pick in 2014 — are a result of losing, but the Orioles also went through that before their recent renaissance, a stretch that landed them top-four overall picks such as Manny Machado (third overall in 2010), Dylan Bundy (fourth in 2011) and Kevin Gausman (fourth in 2012).
“I’d rather not have any of those picks in the first five picks,” Showalter said. “There’s a lot of ways to do it, to put it together, but … when there were a lot of questions being asked, you’ve got to give people a chance. Let it run its course, the first week of the season, there’s a lot of things [at play] when you’re trying to keep the big picture in mind. I’m familiar with a lot of people there, so their success so far this year doesn’t surprise me. I’m trying to figure out a way to beat them.”
Around the horn
Recently claimed infielder Renato Núñez cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday. … Right-hander Chris Tillman will report to the team’s spring training home in Sarasota, Fla., on Wednesday to continue his recovery from a lower back strain. … Food Network chef Giada De Laurentiis threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Tuesday’s game. De Laurentiis is opening a restaurant, GDL Italian, at the Horseshoe Casino this month.