BOSTON — Despite having a save situation in a tense 2-1 win over the Boston Red Sox, Orioles manager Buck Showalter left closer Zach Britton in the bullpen as he works his way back from knee discomfort that required an MRI on Thursday but hasn't necessitated a trip to the disabled list so far.
Showalter said Britton was unavailable despite feeling good after his pregame bullpen session with pitching coach Roger McDowell.
"Yesterday, didn't like the way he felt at the end," Showalter said. "Today, he felt good. It's a long story with a brace and stuff that he normally wears. We felt like if we could get one more day that he'd be a pitcher for us tomorrow. But we'll see what it brings. We've got a long recovery period from today to tomorrow. He started a dose packet and it usually doesn't take hold until sometime later today or early tomorrow, so we're trying to let all those factors play into it."
Britton hasn't pitched since Wednesday, when he lost a streak of 60 consecutive saves converted dating to the end of 2015. He allowed two runs on three hits with a walk while recording just one out, bringing his ERA this season to 3.55.
The MRI was said to be precautionary, as Britton has dealt with soreness in his left knee sporadically since he became a reliever in 2014. It revealed no structural damage, and Britton was encouraged by the idea that he wouldn't need a cleanup procedure in the fall given what the scan showed.
Showalter said before Sunday's game that Britton "needs to pitch" if he's up to it.
"If he physically feels like it, he needs to get out there," Showalter said pregame. "The velocity, his arm feels fine. Stuff-wise, he's fine. But we'll see how it goes today."
The Orioles are taking precautions for if they need to add a pitcher to the roster ahead of Monday night's series opener with the Seattle Mariners, as right-hander Alec Asher was scratched from his scheduled start with Triple-A Norfolk as a contingency plan if Britton is held out again.
Asher has a 3.86 ERA since being sent back to the Tides in early July, after he posted a 5.28 ERA in 28 major league appearances earlier this year.
No movement on Hardy return
Showalter said the pending return of shortstop J.J. Hardy (wrist) wouldn't depend on September expanded rosters arriving Friday, thus removing a roster decision from the equation.
"If he and [coach Bobby Dickerson] feel like he's ready, he'll come before then," Showalter said. "It has nothing to do with the roster expansion. It's when he's ready to play. I've been saying that all along. ..."I think his shoulder is making progress. He feels fine. The big thing is getting at-bats, but he's not far."
Hardy is 2-for-12 in five games with Triple-A Norfolk, though he's drawn a walk in every game.
Rickard return nearing
Outfielder Joey Rickard, who was optioned to the Tides last week to clear a roster spot for Rule 5 draft outfielder Anthony Santander, is doing well in Norfolk and is "on slate to rejoin us," Showalter said.
"Joey, he had a really good game defensively last night," Showalter said. "Joey has been throwing better this year, and I know it's a real tribute. So many outfielders at this level lose arm strength. They don't throw enough. [First base coach Wayne Kirby] is really good about it. He makes them throw to a target every day, and that's something that our guys, the arm strength in a lot of cases has gotten better."
Rickard's return could come when the rosters expand Friday, and Showalter said he also expects to add a catcher, though the rest of the reinforcements are to be determined.
"At some point, I see [executive vice president Dan Duquette] is here today, we may talk some about that," Showalter said. "There's so many things. I've got a list, and then there's some things you need to know about that I don't know about that may [affect it]. There's a lot more to it."
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