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Orioles manager Buck Showalter eager to take the wraps off star reliever Zach Britton

The Orioles have been taking it slow with Zach Britton, but he's right on the verge of reassuming the full-time closer role and manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday that he doesn't intend to handle Britton any differently than he did before he suffered the forearm injury that has sidelined him for most of the season.

With right-hander Brad Brach well established as a capable fill-in closer, the option to ease Britton's workload the rest of the way certainly is available, though apparently not preferable.

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"You could go that way if you wanted to,'' Showalter said. "I don't plan to do that. I'd like to have Zach get to the point that he was last year and has been a little bit for us this year and hopefully will be for us next year.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter saw a clear benefit from the long layoff Chris Tillman had before Monday's start.

"We're a better bullpen because Brad's a guy who is capable of pitching multiple innings and we're able to extend him and have him pitch in a lot of different [situations]."

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Of course, the only way that could become a problem is if the Orioles start getting into save situations more regularly than they have over the past two months. There will be little danger of Britton getting too much work if the starters continue to flame out so regularly in the early innings.

"Physically, I feel I can throw every day,'' Britton said. "I don't have any limitations. I got all of those out of the way during the rehab, but it's still nice to be able to ease back into things. It seems like he's kind of got a schedule in his head when I'm pitching. It would be nice to be in a lot more close games so guys are pitching more and we're winning more and we get to that point where guys actually need rest."

Orioles reliever Mychal Givens is going on two months of stellar relief as his maturation into a major league reliever continues.

Britton isn't really looking for more downtime after making just eight appearances during the mathematical first half of the season. He's looking to re-establish himself as the most dependable closer in baseball and building on a string of 54 consecutive successful save opportunities dating to 2015.

"He's getting ready,'' Showalter said. "If he continues on the path, he's getting ready to do that again."

It's not as if there's any question about who should be the closer. Brach has done an admirable job since stepping into the role, but he has proved human at times. He has blown three ninth-inning save opportunities and was charged with a fourth for allowing a run in a game he entered in the seventh inning. Britton has just four blown saves since the start of the 2015 season.

Brach said Tuesday that he's just happy he got the opportunity to prove he's capable of holding down that job if necessary.

"I think it just kind of proved to myself that I was able to do it at the major league level,'' he said. "That's the biggest thing. I always thought I could but never really had an opportunity. It's nice to know that, maybe not now, but in the future it could happen. So it's good to know that closing is definitely a possibility."

If you listen to the rumor mill, it might become a possibility again this season. Britton's name has been thrown around in trade talk involving both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs, though the Orioles have given no indication they are interested in moving him.

He's under team control through next year, so he certainly has significant trade value even as he continues to work his way back into a regular closer routine, but he's also the most valuable piece of an Orioles bullpen that figures to be the club's major strength at least through next season.

Either way, it is very much in the interests of both Britton and the team that he show he’s the same pitcher who was named the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year in 2016.

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