Orioles closer Zach Britton will be activated off the disabled list after 60 days on the shelf with a forearm strain, and though no one said it outright, it looks as if his previous role will soon be his again.
Britton and manager Buck Showalter had that discussion when the All-Star left-hander returned to the club and arrived in Milwaukee on Tuesday morning, and if not immediately, then he’ll be back closing games soon.
“We’ll move towards returning to that role,” Showalter said. “We’ll see what the game allows us to do.”
Ideally, both Britton and Showalter said, there would be a lower-leverage situation for Britton to return in, though that’s not guaranteed.
“We had talked about it a little bit, me and Buck did,” Britton said. “We’ll kind of just see, especially that first one. Hopefully we’re blowing somebody out and I can just get an inning of work, but we’ll see what the game dictates. I told him I’m just excited to get back to pitching. How he wants to use me right away doesn’t really matter.”
When Britton had the first edition of this forearm problem, he returned for two outings, neither of which were save situations, before the problem returned. But he has just nine major league appearances this year — as many as he’s made now over his two rehabilitation assignments.
Overall, he believes this return will be different because of the precaution taken in having him sit out two months to make sure it was fully healed.
“I’m excited to have the rehab behind me now,” Britton said. “Physically, I feel great. No setbacks. So the program worked, I think, how it was intended to. Now I’m looking forward to getting back to the team.
“I think at the time, what I had kind of been told was a little bit shorter timeline, but obviously it worked, the 60. It was probably the amount of time I needed. You don’t know if I tried to rush back sooner if maybe I would have had a setback, but I let them do their jobs. [Minor league medical coordinator] Dave Walker did a great job with me down in Florida, kind of getting me to calm down and relax a little bit, not rush it. Then coming up here and staying on the schedule we made out, even though yesterday I didn’t really want to throw the game, we stuck with it and it’s probably going to be for the best in the long term.”
With Britton out, Brad Brach has deputized as closer, converting 15 saves in 19 chances while posting a 2.72 ERA and a 0.908 WHIP.
'Pain-free' Davis on track
The first two days of throwing after a right oblique strain last month in Chicago have gone well for first baseman Chris Davis, and a return July 14 — the first day after the All-Star break — remains “very realistic,” he said.
“I feel really good,” Davis said. “I felt pretty much pain-free for a good while now, and obviously, two days ago I started throwing and swinging. I’ve been able to do as much as I could possibly do without any pain. I’m excited. I’m champing at the bit to get back out there, but you want to be obviously respectful to our trainers and the doctors and make sure I do everything I can to avoid either aggravating or reinjuring the oblique.”
Showalter seconded that, and said Davis has been asking to be activated sooner, though both medical opinions and the four-day All-Star break beginning Monday complicate that.
“There’s a potential that he could have been ready during the break,” Showalter said. “But I think there will be some good from it, too. If you’re asking if he’d have been available during the break time, probably. He’d have been close. Once he got through the first throwing, unfortunately it kind of fell [that way]. I think the first day after the break is about as fast as we want to go. I’ve talked to a lot of people about the prospect of speeding it up after two days. There’s a lot of negative on that. There’s always another level when you’re actually playing in a game.”
Wilson up, then down
The Orioles recalled right-hander Tyler Wilson on Tuesday, replacing right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis.
Wilson allowed a run on two hits in two innings, including a home run to slugger Eric Thames, and was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk after the game. That roster spot will likely go to Britton on Wednesday.
Yacabonis pitched 3 1/3 innings and allowed one run in relief of left-hander Wade Miley on Monday, and Showalter has frequently said the Orioles try to keep pitchers who pitch well, but the club needed potential bullpen innings behind right-hander Ubaldo Jiménez on Tuesday.
“We need some potential length in our ’pen,” Showalter said. “I usually don’t like to send a guy out who pitched pretty well like Yac did yesterday, but it’s out of necessity. He presented himself well. I’m pleased with him. That would have been a tough one that early if he hadn’t done a pretty good job for us. It’s Tyler’s day to pitch. You like to think you don’t need it but you better be prepared.”
Around the horn: Because Britton was placed on the 60-day disabled list, he'll need to be added back to the 40-man roster Wednesday. Showalter said infielder Ryan Flaherty (shoulder) could go to the 60-day DL, as he's been out for 48 days and won't be back in the next two weeks. ... Right-hander Hunter Harvey (elbow), the Orioles’ 2013 first-round pick, pitched two innings in a simulated game with no problems Tuesday, Showalter said. … Right-hander Mike Wright (shoulder) will throw 25 times from 75 to 90 feet Wednesday, Showalter said, while right-hander Stefan Crichton (shoulder) is pain-free and will start throwing Wednesday.