Speaking in front of his locker, leaning on crutches and in a walking boot to allow for stimulation treatment on his sprained left ankle, Orioles closer Zach Britton said X-rays late Saturday night were negative, and he hopes to avoid a trip to the disabled list.
"I think I'd be surprised I if had to go on the DL, but we'll see how it feels," Britton said. "It feels pretty good compared to yesterday, how it feels this morning, but it's still some tenderness in there and obviously I'm not walking great. I think you've got to walk fine before I can even start pitching again. Hopefully, it's just a few days and I can maybe throw a bullpen or something, or at least run on it and see how it feels."
The All-Star closer jammed his ankle after trying to make his second stellar defensive play in as many nights by fielding a drag bunt down the first base line and flipping it out of his glove to first baseman Chris Davis.
After the flip, which did not retire speedy Adam Eaton at first base, Britton said he began feeling discomfort.
"After I flipped the ball to Chris, I just kind of felt something and I didn't know if I stepped wrong — I didn't feel like I rolled it or anything, my ankle, but just didn't feel very good," Britton said. Head athletic trainer Richie Bancells didn't think it was worth leaving him in the game and made the call to take Britton into the clubhouse.
Britton joked that he was "trying to win a Gold Glove."
"I think I'm going to shut that down," he said.
Speaking before Sunday's series finale with the Chicago White Sox, manager Buck Showalter said he felt the same way he did Saturday night about the prognosis.
"Not much swelling," Showalter said. "I think he'll be a pitcher shortly — hopefully. It's the left one. I kind of like that a little better than the right one. I'd rather have that one opposed to the landing foot, but I don't think it was a real [turn], more like jam the capsule in there a little bit as opposed to turning it. Kind of what Richie thought. The lack of swelling kind of reiterated what Richie thought it was looking at the tape."
His left ankle is his drive leg as opposed to his landing leg, so Britton thinks he might be able to tape it or stabilize it with a brace, but wasn't able to give a prognosis of how long he could possibly be out.
Britton said he and the team's medical staff had discussed an MRI, but he might not get one because of a lack of swelling in the ankle Sunday morning and the fact that the pain is localized in one spot.
Relievers Darren O'Day, Brad Brach, and Mychal Givens are the primary candidates to replace him in the closer's role. While O'Day is the natural choice as the primary set-up man, moving him from that role changes everyone's role in the bullpen, so manager Buck Showalter could go another direction.
Showalter was predictably coy on who would close in the event Britton could not be used.
"I'll never tell until I get there," Showalter said. "We've talked about it. We've got some options."
At least in the short term, the fact that he'll have relievers he won't use Sunday will inform that decision.
"It'd be easy if you had two or three days off before you played," he said. Because players are unavailable, Showalter said he won't be able to just push everyone back one spot the way the opposing White Sox did without closer David Robertson, who was on the bereavement list this weekend.
When asked specifically about rookie reliever Dylan Bundy, Showatler said: "I'll think about anybody that gives us the best chance to win the game. All eight guys down there are in play. Not one more than the other. This thing about 'closers,' I mean, Mychal Givens closed a game in the sixth inning the other day. They're all relevant, there's just a certain finality about that inning. What is it, that you get to go home if you get three outs? It doesn't mean the game is over."