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Orioles notes: Britton resumes throwing, Tillman pacing himself, Showalter on Red Sox suspension

Orioles closer Zach Britton threw for the first time since going on the 10-day disabled list with a left forearm strain April 16, playing catch from 90 feet on flat ground before Monday night's game, and his next step will be throwing a full bullpen session off a full mound Wednesday.

"I felt good," Britton said. "So at this point in the season, it's not like I have to build up arm strength or anything like that. It's just about getting off the mound now."

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Wednesday is the first day Britton is eligible to return from the disabled list, but he won't make that date. He might still need to make a brief minor league rehabilitation assignment before returning.

"If that goes well, we'll talk again," manager Buck Showalter said of Britton's session Wednesday.

Britton said that in his throwing session Monday he used his four-seam-fastball and two-seam-sinker grips without incident. Even though he first felt the discomfort in his forearm throwing a rare slider in a game in his most recent appearance April 14, Britton said he doesn't believe throwing the breaking ball pitch will be a problem.

"The sinker grip is almost like the breaking ball grip to me, so my hand is going to be in that position on a breaking ball, too," Britton said. "So if I don't feel it on the fastball, I'm probably not going to feel it on the breaking ball either. If it's healed, it's healed I think."

Britton didn't see a hand specialist before throwing Monday — and seeing one wasn't a prerequisite for him to throw — but he said he still plans to see one to discuss how he can prevent the discomfort from returning.

"I threw already without seeing him," Britton said. "That wasn't something that was going to prevent us from throwing. That was more seeing what he had to say about strengthening it or preventing it from coming back."

Tillman pacing himself

Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman said he'd be getting ahead of himself by saying his next rehab start, scheduled for Thursday for High-A Frederick, could be his last.

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The Orioles have a rotation spot open May 2 — which would be five days after Tillman's next rehab outing — but Tillman said he's still treating where he is now like the end of spring training and doesn't want to cheat himself of the chance to be fully ready for the season.

"I think it all depends on how it goes," Tillman said. "I'm not going to get ahead of myself and say, 'Yes, I'm going to be back.' I think it all depends on how it goes. I want to see a few things this next outing, and kind of talk it over after Thursday."

Tillman pitched 3 2/3 innings for Double-A Bowie on Saturday and said it was as good as he's felt since his shoulder problems cropped up again in the offseason. He's been dealing with shoulder soreness since August  and had a cortisone shot in mid-March to alleviate the trouble.

Now, among his other goals, he's trying to find a way to get his shoulder loose before starts. Once he does that, he said, he's healthy and able to pitch normally that day.

"This last one was really, probably by far the best one getting loose," Tillman said. "It was kind of back to where I was last year, so like I've said, I've seen the progress and we're getting to the point where it's getting easier to get loose now. I'm figuring out what it takes."

Showalter on Red Sox suspension

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Showalter said he was "curious" to see whether Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was disciplined for throwing near Manny Machado's head in the eighth inning of Sunday's series finale against Boston.

"Anticipating it?" Showalter said. "I'm curious to see what they end up with. I have a lot of confidence people will look at it and do the right thing."

Shortly after Showalter's comments, Major League Baseball announced that it is suspending Barnes for four games, pending appeal.

Barnes, who was ejected from the game, denied that the pitch was retribution for Machado's slide into second base Friday night that injured second baseman Dustin Pedroia when Machado's spike came up off the bag and hit Pedroia's surgically repaired left knee.

Machado's slide brought attention to the new slide rule that was implemented last season to protect middle infielders — Boston argued Machado's slide was late — but Showalter said bases don't have the give they used to, adding that he believed that was the case because they're switched out so often to be used as memorabilia.

"The bags are so hard now, and now there's so much fundraising for charity that they take the bags up, they auction them, and bags never really get broken in or there's give to them," Showalter said. "I really think we should look into softening up the bags … where there's some give to the back. You put your foot into a bag, it doesn't give at all, and you bounce off of them sometimes. I'm not making excuses for anything. I'm just saying from a baseball standpoint, we need to look at putting some give into the bags."

Around the horn

Outfielder Joey Rickard (sprained left middle finger), who is scheduled to start his minor league rehab assignment Monday night, was transferred from Bowie — the Baysox game at Richmond was rained out Monday afternoon — to Low-A Delmarva. The club wanted Rickard to face a higher level of competition, but the weather will likely force Rickard to play at Delmarva on Monday and Tuesday. He is already eligible to return from the DL. ...Outfielder Seth Smith returned to the Orioles' starting lineup Monday, his first action since leaving last Tuesday night's game in Cincinnati with a strained right hamstring.

eencina@baltsun.com
twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

Baltimore Sun staff writer Jon Meoli contributed to this article.

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