The key to Zach Britton's recovery from a left ankle sprain figured to be how he felt the day after returning to game action, so hearing that Britton reported no setbacks the day after earning the win with 1 1/3 scoreless innings in the Orioles' 1-0 extra-inning win over the New York Yankees on Thursday pleased manager Buck Showalter.
"That was the best thing that's happened today so far is that he came in today feeling good," Showalter said Friday.
Britton received some help from catcher Matt Wieters, who picked Starlin Castro off second base to end the ninth inning right after a Britton wild pitch allowed Castro to move into scoring position. But after issuing a leadoff walk to Brian McCann, Britton struck out the side in the 10th.
Britton will still pitch through some discomfort, but in his return, the results were obviously there.
He carried his typical velocity -- Britton’s sinker averaged 97 mph -- and all three of his strikeouts in the 10th came on swinging strikes on his sinker, so it was obvious he was getting the needed dip with to pitch to miss bats. Twenty-two of his 23 pitches were sinkers.
Still, Britton knows that he's not out of the woods yet. Since the day he was injured, he acknowledged that ankle injuries can be tricky. The good thing is that he didn't roll the ankle, he just jammed it, which is good news for a shorter recovery.
"Everything I've been told is that you just have to stay on top of it with the treatment until it's completely gone," Britton said. "There's no timetable. It's all based on how you feel. The doctors say everyone's different. It could linger for just a few days or it could be a few weeks, so I'll continue to get treatment with Richie and the training staff and hopefully it will get to the point when I don't need that and I can kind of ween myself off the brace to the point where I don't need it at all."
Britton will still wear a bulky ankle brace on his ankle – more so to provided added stability to the joint than for necessity to pitch – for now. The brace is like the ones basketball players wear – Britton joked it's the same model worn by Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry – and had to switch to low-top cleats to fit the brace in.
"It's just an extra piece of protection. I've never pitched with an ankle brace on, so I had to go to some low-top shoes to fit the brace on," Britton said. "It's kind of what I have to do right now, but I feel like it didn't hinder anything I was doing in terms of pitching. I felt pretty good."