Closer Zach Britton said Saturday that he rushed back to the mound against the advice of the Orioles’ medical staff. Now, he is headed to the disabled list and will go to Los Angeles for a second opinion on his sore left forearm.
Britton will leave Sunday to see orthopedic specialist Dr. Neal ElAttrache, but still seemed relieved by the results of the MRI he underwent Friday evening.
“The MRI was about the same as the last time,” Britton said Saturday. “Maybe a little bit more inflammation, but that could have been just because I had thrown less than 24 hours [before]. The elbow looks good, so this is just a muscle issue. Trying to get that inflammation out. Probably going to see ElAttrache in a few days out in L.A., and see what he has to say about it. Dr. [Mike] Jacobs sent some images to [Dr. James] Andrews as well. Trying to get some guys to wrap their heads around how to eliminate it and get me back as soon as possible.”
Britton didn’t hesitate when asked if he thought he had come back too soon from the soreness to pitch a couple of games in Boston.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “I think the doctors and the trainers wanted me to be a little more cautious with it at the time, maybe take another week. I felt pretty good and wanted to come back to the team. I was kind of over sitting on the bench watching games and felt I was in a good enough position to come back, but obviously I wasn’t.”
Manager Buck Showalter didn’t agree.
“Is he implying we weren’t extra cautious this time?” Showalter said. “No, obviously that’s very important. That’s why we did him every other day and didn’t pitch him, and we’ll continue to be very cautious with him. But at the same time, to do the job we need done, there are certain things Zach wants to get back to, too.”
Swingman Alec Asher was called up from Triple-A Norfolk to take Britton’s spot on the roster. Britton said he didn’t know how long he would be on the DL this time.
“I think ElAttrache will have a better idea,” Britton said. “Jacobs did not want to put a time frame on it yet until we talk to other doctors. I would assume [it will be longer than 10 days], but if anything because we’re going to be cautious with it.
“Based on what I’m hearing from the doctors, it’s really how I feel, but maybe you do another picture on it when I get closer to throwing just to see what that image says, and see if all that inflammation is gone in the muscle.”
For Britton, it has been a star-crossed season from the start. Coming off one of the greatest seasons by any closer in baseball history, he suffered an oblique injury early in spring training and was limited to just a handful of exhibition appearances.
He started the season and has converted each of his five save opportunities, but has not been the same pitcher as last season. He has allowed 12 hits in nine innings pitched and allowed 16 base runners over that span.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette said Saturday that club officials are not second-guessing themselves for allowing Britton to return when he did.
“Zach felt good, and we felt that as long as he felt good and there wasn’t any pain that he could return to work,” Duquette said. “Evidently, he needed a little bit more time.
“I’m going to say, you know, when you miss a part of spring training, there’s no way to make up for that time. There’s a time and a process that it takes to prepare for the season, and that was upset. The timing of that was upset when Zach got hurt in his first batting practice session; he had the muscle strain. Everything is related in the pitching delivery. You have to be careful, so he needs a little bit more time.”