One day after his penultimate minor league rehabilitation outing before he's scheduled to rejoin the Orioles, closer Zach Britton on Saturday proclaimed himself physically ready to return from the disabled list.
Britton, who hasn't pitched in a major league game since May 4 because he re-aggravated a left forearm strain, threw a 1-2-3 ninth inning for High-A Frederick, retiring the Lynchburg Hillcats in order on just 11 pitches on the second day of back-to-back outings.
"Maybe the [previous] one in [Double-A] Bowie, I felt like I was there but could maybe use another inning, and then after last night maybe after the second hitter I knew I was ready to go," Britton said. "So now I have to do the one at Norfolk. I wish I didn't have to, but that's where we are."
Britton is scheduled to pitch one more inning for Triple-A Norfolk on Monday before being reinstated from the DL before Wednesday's series finale in Milwaukee.
"It's pretty much just get through Norfolk, don't do anything stupid and get up to Milwaukee," Britton said. "But I've thrown all my breaking balls. The command's gone up, the velocity's gone up. The sinker is there. The delivery is good, so there's not a whole lot I need to work on other than just getting through that inning at Norfolk."
As far as facing a higher level of competition, Britton said he has faced good hitters at the Double-A proving ground in Bowie.
"Bowie's got some talent. Looking at the numbers of some of the guys I faced there, I don't even know why they're in Double-A," Britton said. "There's some good hitters [there]. I think competition-wise, nothing prepares you for the big leagues. I've known that since I was in the minors. It's a completely different level, but no I don't think it's competition-wise. I think it's more about getting innings no matter what level."
The Orioles were conservative with Britton's rehab. He took two weeks off from throwing and his progression in Sarasota, Fla., was about a month long. Giving Britton seven minor league rehab games before returning was done with the intent of simulating spring training after his reset.
"We started all over and we knew all along [what it took] to put this to bed, put it at rest," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "But who knows when he gets into a big league game? It could flare up again. I don't know. But we're not going to take any chances with it. I don't think it's overcautious. I think it's the right program. There's a lot of people, including Zach, who weighed in on this program. Taking him 10 days and it happening again? It doesn't seem very smart."
Though the long recovery process forced him to be patient, Britton said it was done for the best.
"Yeah, I think the rehab process, the stuff I did with [minor league medical coordinator] Dave Walker down in Florida, being conservative in the front end, not throwing when I wanted to throw, taking an extra week, was probably a smart play," Britton said. "I haven't had any soreness, so it was obviously the right way to go."
Davis to resume baseball activities Monday
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is scheduled to resume throwing Monday, which will mark his first baseball activities since going on the DL in mid-June with a right oblique strain.
Showalter said the hope is that Davis will progress to further baseball activities, such as swinging a bat, later in the week as the club remains cautious with the slugger's recovery from an injury that can easily be aggravated if he starts doing baseball activities too soon.
Davis told Showalter that he hoped to be back from the DL before the All-Star break, but given this progression, it appear he won't return until after the break. Showalter said that the Orioles are making plans for Davis to play in minor league rehab games over the break.
"We'll see how Monday goes. That's the first step and if it that goes well, we'll know what we're dealing with," Showalter said.
Hardy has fractured rib
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is on the DL with a broken bone in his right wrist, also has a fractured rib that was revealed when looking in to lingering soreness in his side. The rib injury isn't expected to affect Hardy's timetable to return from his wrist injury.
"It should manage in time that the wrist manages, but it was a good catch," Showalter said of Hardy, who isn't expected to be able to return until August.
The team uncovered the injury when Hardy told trainers that he was still sore from a play three weeks ago at Yankee Stadium when he and left fielder Trey Mancini avoided a scary collision on a fly ball in shallow left field. Tests revealed what Showalter described as a hairline fracture in one of Hardy's ribs.
"He said it really didn't bother him much to play because he didn't think much of it, but he was a little sore," Showalter said. "He was noticing while we were on this last trip how sore he still was. So for safety sake and just making sure, we took a picture of it."
Around the horn
The Orioles will have a contingency plan in place in case right-hander Chris Tillman isn't available to make his next start Wednesday in Milwaukee. Tillman and his wife are awaiting the birth of their first child. "We're making plans for that person to be properly available," Showalter said about Tillman's potential replacement Wednesday. As of now, Tillman is set to fly to Milwaukee with the club after Sunday's game. … As the team attempts to give right-hander Dylan Bundy additional rest around the All-Star break, he will pitch on regular rest after Saturday's start, making his final start before the break Thursday. He will then be the team's fifth starter coming out of the break, which will give him 11 days' rest. Showalter said Bundy's schedule is mapped out through mid-September. … Frederick right-hander Cody Sedlock, the Orioles' first-round draft pick last year, has been placed on the DL with a right elbow flexor strain.