Orioles: No surgery for Britton

SARASOTA, Fla. - Zach Britton won't be having surgery on his sore left shoulder. Unfortunately, he won't be around to help the Baltimore Orioles for at least the first month of the season.

Britton visited Pensacola, Fla. on Wednesday to consult with the noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews about the shoulder.

Andrews examined the shoulder, read an MRI from last month and after talking with Britton, trainer Richie Bancells and team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens, decided on an alternative therapy.

Andrews injected Britton twice as part of the platelet rich plasma treatment, and the left-hander said in a conference call on Wednesday afternoon, that it won't be an easy road back.

"It's not going to be a two-week process, a three-week process. It could be up to six weeks to heal," Britton said. "It depends on my body and how fast they get the inflammation out of my shoulder."

Britton hasn't pitched this spring, and on the eve of his second minor league game on Monday, was scratched. He asked to see Dr. Andrews, and the Orioles eagerly complied.

"He looked at the MRI, and he just said I definitely have the typical wear and tear of a pitcher. He saw a lot of inflammation," Britton said.

If Britton can't throw for six weeks, that rules him out until early May.

"I'm not going to rush back and have the same issue crop back up. It's just a process that I've got to take," Britton said.

"I'm frustrated with it, but if it's going to help me pitch and have a long career, that's the most important thing. Not necessarily being ready to pitch in April."

WILLIS THE SPECIALIST: Dontrelle Willis arrived in Orioles camp early Wednesday morning, and he couldn't wait to get started. Willis was signed to a minor league contract on Tuesday four days after the Philadelphia Phillies released him.

Seven years ago, he was a 22-game winner for the Florida Marlins, but he's been with six organizations since then. In the past three seasons, he's just 4-15.

Now, Orioles executive vice president for baseball operations Dan Duquette wants to see if the 30-year-old Willis can make it back to the big leagues as a left-handed relief specialist.

With just two weeks left in spring training and lots of other pitchers to evaluate, there probably isn't time for Willis to get a good look.

"For him to transition to the relief role, he probably needs some time in Triple-A," Duquette said.

The minors don't bother the D-Train.

"I was able to reinvent myself because those young guys-they swing at everything," Willis said.

"They're excited. They make me feel old because they say things like: 'I remember watching you on TV.' I just turned 30. They play heard because they want that first home run off Dontrelle."

He knows his may be his final shot at salvaging his career.

"I definitely hope so or I'll go home," he said.

HUNTER STRUGGLES: Tommy Hunter worked five nondescript innings on Wednesday afternoon in his first spring game of the season. He allowed two runs, five hits, walked two and struck out two as the Orioles lost to the Toronto Blue Jays 6-3 before 6,243 at Ed Smith Stadium.

Hunter, who had been sidelined with a lower back injury, worked four innings in a minor league game last week, and threw 74 pitches.

"I definitely have some work to do, and thank God, there's two weeks of spring training left," he said.

Manager Buck Showalter wasn't heaping praise on Hunter, either.

"We've seen Tommy have good command. It was good to see him survive without it," Showalter said.

The Blue Jays scored four runs in the ninth to win the game. The Orioles are 6-9-4 in spring games.

ROBERTS BETTER: Brian Roberts probably won't be with the Orioles when they leave Florida on Apr. 4, but he's pleased with the progress he's making. For the second time, he watched part of a game from the dugout on Wednesday.

He's getting more and more optimistic he'll eventually play.

"It's just a matter of when," Roberts said.

ODDS AND ENDS: The Orioles play the Minnesota Twins at Fort Myers on Thursday. Wei-Yin Chen will pitch against the Twins' Carl Pavano. ... Baltimore cut four non-roster right-handed pitchers: Willie Eyre, Jon Link, Miguel Socolovich and Oscar Villarreal.

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