Orioles closer Zach Britton didn't pitch in his first Grapefruit League game until nearly three weeks into the season as the club brought him along slowly while he dealt with soreness in his left side, but Britton said he's still well on pace to be ready for the beginning of the season.
Heading into a one-inning appearance in a minor league game on Monday, Britton had made just two Grapefruit League appearances. He tossed a scoreless inning on Friday against the Pirates in Bradenton, but also allowed two runs on four hits in his Grapefruit League debut last Tuesday at home against Tampa Bay.
"The second one was a lot better than the first one, that's a good sign," Britton said Monday morning before heading to Twins Lakes Park. "… I actually feel really good. No more symptoms of that, nothing's creeped back or anything. I feel really good now. I can just focus on getting ready for the season. I feel pretty good with where I'm at this year compared to where I was last year."
Britton said he will likely get four more outings before the end of the spring training slate, including one appearance on a back-to-back day. He said he likely won't make a multiple-inning outing, which has been a staple of his spring training preparation.
"That's more important than maybe the two-inning [outing]," Britton said of pitching on consecutive days. "In the past, we've been able to do two innings. I don't think that's going to happen this spring based on where we started. Feel really good for the schedule [pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] laid out for me and we're keeping on that time frame, which is huge.
"[The soreness is] completely gone now and my focus is really just getting ready for the season. I'm pretty close. As a reliever now, it only takes a few innings. It kind of clicks for you one day, and then you're ready for the season to start, where as a starter you've got to build up those innings, and I don't need to do that anymore."
Orioles shuffle pitching deck
When left-hander Wade Miley arrived at jetBlue Park on Monday morning still battling an illness bug, the team sent him back to Sarasota, forcing the Orioles to shuffle their pitching deck for Monday's game against the Boston Red Sox.
Left-hander Vidal Nuno, who is competing for a long relief role with the team, filled in for Miley and was slated to pitch two innings, maybe more if his pitch count would allow.
Nuno made his first outing since returning from the WBC – he played for Team Mexico – on Friday, allowing one run on two hits in one inning.
The Orioles already had six pitchers in the bullpen, including five minor league arms, but also summoned minor leaguers Stefan Crichton and Scott McGough from minor league camps to ensure they had enough arms.
As for Miley, Showalter said that he pitched through illness in his last start, but he thought he had completely recovered heading into Monday's game.
"He looks rough," Showalter said. "He missed a couple things. … We thought he was over it, but it looks like he's had a little relapse. One of our clubbies is driving him back. … He actually came over here last night and said he woke up this morning [and was sick]."
Showalter said that it shouldn't affect Miley's status for the regular season, but the team could move up Miley's next scheduled start in order to get him work.
Bundy, Gausman getting work down below
Right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman will make their next spring starts in minor league games this week.
Bundy will pitch in a minor league game on the team's off day on Thursday in order to stay on turn. Gausman is slated to throw at Twin Lakes Park on Friday so that the club can get another look at right-hander Mike Wright against major league competition on Friday on the road against the Minnesota Twins. Wright is one of five arms competing for the rotation hole caused by Chris Tillman opening the season on the disabled list.
The Orioles will continue to conduct auditions for the rotation spot this week as two other candidates will receive starts. Left-hander Chris Lee is slated to start Wednesday against Tampa Bay and right-hander Gabriel Ynoa will start on Saturday against the Twins.