Orioles relief pitcher Mychal Givens thinks he and the rest of the bullpen can hold the line while closer Zach Britton recovers from his injury. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun video)
SARASOTA, FLA. — Mychal Givens is just fine with his setup role in the Orioles bullpen, but he might get the chance to convert some late-inning save opportunities while the team is awaiting the return of closer Zach Britton.
The Orioles were in a similar situation last year when Britton was lost in May to a forearm strain. Setup man Brad Brach took over the closer role and will likely start the coming season in the same position, but manager Buck Showalter seemed to say Sunday that he could flip the script and occasionally alter the bullpen progression if the matchups call for that.
“Roger [McDowell, pitching coach], Alan [Mills, bullpen coach] and I have an [idea] in an ideal world how we’d like for it to work until Zach gets back, but we’re going to kind of play with it a little bit and see,’’ Showalter said. “One of the reasons is because of a guy like Mike. He’s capable of taking it to another level.
“I know what I’d like to do in a perfect world, but I’d like to get some input from guys who deserve to be asked that. We’re fortunate to have some people who are capable of doing the job, and it’s a little bit of a stretch to think anybody, with the exception of one or two people in baseball, are going to do it at the level that Zach did.”
Givens, who was working through the Orioles system as a middle infielder a very short time ago, has had tremendous success as a middle guy. He’s a combined 18-3 with a 2.75 ERA in parts of three big league seasons, but said he’s willing to do whatever he can to help maintain the club’s solid bullpen chemistry.
“Whatever my destiny is and wherever it takes me, I’m just trying to be the best what I am in whatever situation they put me in,’’ Givens said. “I’ve been fortunate to be around our great bullpen with Zach, Darren O’Day and Brad Brach the first few years. Also got to hang out with Andrew Miller and pick his brain and that was great.
“I’m just taking all that advice that’s been given to me and go out and roll with it and just try to be good at whatever situation they throw out you.”
Showalter said he’ll be looking to maintain some flexibility to get the most out of his top relievers.
“Fortunately, we have some people that have done it, but I want to have the best situation to use all their talents. There might be a situation that calls for somebody that may have closed the last two games that we really are in need of in the seventh inning. I really don’t want to get pigeon-holed in that if I can help it. I want us to put our best foot forward every night.”
When Showalter was asked Sunday whether he thinks that a full-time closer role might be in Givens’ future, he didn’t hesitate.
“Sure,’’ he said. “I do. Mike is off to as good a start in the spring he’s had since he’s been here. That’s good to see. He’s a little more mature … a little wiser. It seems like he’s really focused on the task at hand and the need that the club’s going to have and what he can do to help.”