Memorable relief appearance for Orioles LHP Zach Britton vs. Phillies
By By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun|
Mar 13, 2014 | 7:21 AM
SARASOTA, Fla. – Orioles left-hander Zach Britton has put together a solid spring, but his one-inning relief appearance Wednesday afternoon against the Philadelphia Phillies was one to remember.
Pitching for the second time in four days, Britton needed just seven pitches to retire the heart of the Phillies lineup in order. He struck out Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf, both swinging, on six total pitches as his sinker sat at 95 mph.
Even though Britton's name is still in the conversation for the starting rotation, this was the third time he pitched in an eight-day stretch. He pitched two innings in each of his first three appearances before Wednesday's one-inning outing. And he has looked better every time.
It's obvious that the club is trying to see how Britton, who is out of minor league options, fits into different relief roles.
"I wanted to see him in that look a little bit, too," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of giving Britton just one inning. "We'll look to give him multiple innings when they're there, but also to get looks at that, too. He handled that pretty well today, didn't he? That was pretty good. Glad Dave [Wallace] and Dom [Chiti] are getting to see him like he's capable. They've heard me say it enough."
In four appearances this spring, Britton has allowed just one run and five hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts and two walks. An argument could be made that the one run he allowed came on a play that should have been made by third baseman Michael Almanzar in the Orioles' Grapefruit League opener Feb. 28.
-- Nolan Reimold will head to Twin Lakes Park today for extra at-bats in minor league games. There's no exact number of at-bats he will receive each day, and it's unclear how long he will be playing in games there.
But it's obvious the club wants to see Reimold get more at-bats since he has missed the majority of the past two seasons. The hope is that better contact will follow.
Over the past few games, there has been an improvement with Reimold. He followed a bloop opposite field single in his first at-bat Wednesday with his first spring homer, a two-run shot in the fifth inning. Showalter was more impressed with a sharply hit line drive Reimold hit to third base that ended up being a double play.
"After the breaking ball base hit over at Pirate City, he's looking more hitter-ish each at-bat, so that's good to see," Showalter said. "I thought he had a lot of good at-bats today. He squared up a couple. I thought the line drive to third base was a better at-bat than the home run."
Wednesday was Reimold's first multiple hit game of the spring. He's 5-for-12 in his past four games.
"Getting results helps," Reimold said. "It's just a matter of finding it again. It's been a long time, so it feels good to get some results. I can keep improving, keep getting better and stronger. That's the plan. ... It always feels good to hit the ball hard. It's good to keep making progress, keep feeling better at the plate and keep working."
-- There might not be a player whose stock has risen as quickly as right-hander Brock Huntzinger.
The 25-year-old entered spring training as a minor-league free agent, but he left major league camp – he was reassigned Wednesday – having made a huge impression.
Huntzinger, who allowed one run and two hits over 3 2/3 innings this spring, seemed to be ahead of the curve early since he had two stints playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
Showalter said he was impressed by Huntzinger's resume coming into camp. He was 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 13 saves, allowing just 51 hits over 68 2/3 innings in Double-A and Triple-A in the Boston Red Sox organization last year.
And in discussing the impression Huntzinger made in camp, Showalter said he could be among the first tier of pitchers that the Orioles look to for help from Triple-A Norfolk this season.
"We're always going to keep the guys who potentially could come back to us whether they're going to pitch them for three innings and not be an option for us for two or three days," Showalter said. "I can't tell you how many times we've called down to the dugout to shut a guy down. He's a guy who you might think about doing that [with]. Like I told him today, the roster doesn't have anything to do with it. We're going to take the best guy. We can always make room on the roster. We're in good shape there."