By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun
10:08 PM EDT, July 6, 2011
Rookie Zach Britton is finally going to get his chance to start in Fenway Park, but he may not pitch again for another week afterward.
Britton will start Friday in Boston — it's the first outing of his career there since his originally scheduled Fenway debut was rained out May 17 — but then will be pushed back to the Orioles' fourth or fifth game after the All-Star break, July 17 against the Cleveland Indians or July 18 against the Red Sox.
"That's the plan, but don't hold us to it with some of the moving parts we've got," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I want to push him back every chance we got."
Britton's career high in innings pitched was 1531/3 last year between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. The 23-year-old left-hander has logged 1032/3 innings in 2011, and the Orioles would like to keep him near the 175-inning mark, though his workload within the starts (pitches thrown, etc.) also will figure into that limit.
Showalter doesn't want to shut down Britton in the last month of the season, so he hopes to work around days off to lessen the strain on the rookie.
"I don't think it does us any good if we shut him down Aug. 15," Showalter said. "I want to massage it so where we can have him pitch in the month of September. I think that is important for him. It's as important for him to pitch in September as it is to have the right inning depth as we go forward. So on off days and stuff, if we can do it, we'll do it."
That means Britton will likely have eight or nine days' rest in between his next two starts. The rookie loves to pitch, so he's not happy about it, but he gets the reasoning.
"I understand the innings thing, it's just unfortunate that we have been in a situation where we have been really inconsistent as a starting staff. So I am almost at the point where I feel like I feel healthy, I feel strong and I want to give the team innings that we desperately need out of a starting pitcher," Britton said. "So I am kind of hoping that [Showalter] will let me throw a little bit longer because we don't have the luxury of skipping my starts."
As the season goes on and Showalter picks his spots in skipping Britton, he can expect to hear a little from the lefty — though it might not do any good.
"I don't want to hurt myself either; I have never thrown 200 innings or anything close to it," Britton said. "But I don't want to be skipping starts and put the team in a hole. As long as I feel good, I think I am going to lobby a little bit to keep going."
Britton, who is 6-6 with a 3.47 ERA in 17 starts, is psyched about pitching at Fenway, especially now that he has toured the place, walked around the seating bowl and seen one game from the dugout.
"I am definitely looking forward to it," Britton said. "It was actually kind of nice to go there and not have to pitch. You could get kind of used to the atmosphere, and so now I am definitely excited to go back and face them."
Simon to leave team
Right-hander Alfredo Simon, who spent two months this year imprisoned in the Dominican Republic while a suspect in a fatal New Year's Day shooting, will leave the team July 17 to deal with legal matters.
He is expected to appear at a hearing July 18, and the Orioles are hopeful that he'll be able to resolve the situation and return to the team shortly thereafter.
The Orioles still believe he has not been charged with a crime. Simon has declined to comment on the incident since returning to the United States in late March.
Simon, who is 1-1 with a 4.64 ERA in seven relief appearances this year, is a candidate to start either Saturday's or Sunday's game in Boston. Other candidates include Mitch Atkins, who allowed just one run in six innings Tuesday in his Orioles debut, and Jeremy Guthrie, who would be pitching on three days' rest after starting Wednesday.
Chris Jakubauskas, Jason Berken and Brad Bergesen also could be summoned if needed.
"We are waiting. We know what we are going to probably end up doing, see how everything goes with Jeremy [on Wednesday], but certainly Mitch presented himself well [Tuesday] night," Showalter said. "We've got options for Saturday and Sunday; we'll get through it. Obviously, Simon could go on Saturday, and it depends on if we have a need for him between now and then."
Atkins basks in good debut
Atkins, the 25-year-old right-hander who was called up Tuesday with the unenviable task of facing the Texas Rangers' formidable lineup, said he received about 20 phone messages and texts after his quality start in the Orioles' 4-2 loss.
"Texas has a good lineup, but I didn't really try to focus on that too much," Atkins said. "I tried to focus on what I was trying to do and just push that to the back of my mind."
Atkins threw strikes and limited the Rangers to one run, an impressive outing for a minor league free agent who missed all spring with an oblique strain. He had pitched seven games in relief for the Chicago Cubs in 2009 and 2010 but had never made a big league start.
"It's an awesome feeling," Atkins said about his return to the majors after rebounding from injury. "It was the first time I had been hurt and it was probably the longest I had been on the DL, and so it was a little change of pace for me. It probably made me a better all-around player just having that experience."
Atkins held the Rangers scoreless for the first 52/3 innings Tuesday, the longest an Oriole making his debut has shut out an opponent since Chris Waters threw eight scoreless innings in August 2008.
"That was his first start in the big leagues, a tough spot, a tough place to pitch," Showalter said of Atkins. "We will take it as a real positive. I hope it turns out to be that. This guy is only 25 years old; he's younger than some of the guys that we have here that we are hoping are going to be long-term solutions."
Around the horn
Wednesday's game-time temperature was 100 degrees, the third straight game in Texas in which that has happened. The last time the Orioles played three straight games in 100-degree weather was July-August 2006 in Baltimore. … Luke Scott (shoulder strain) left the Orioles' clubhouse Wednesday afternoon to fly to Baltimore. He will have an MRA at 11:45 a.m. Friday. … Thursday's starter, Jake Arrieta, flew to Boston on Wednesday night ahead of the team. … Texas outfielder Endy Chavez was hit in the helmet by Guthrie's pickoff attempt in the second inning. He was motionless for a moment but stayed in the game. … Adam Jones remains in fourth out of five candidates for baseball's "Final Vote" to be added to the American League All-Star team. The winner will be announced Thursday.
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