Despite past success with bat, Zach Britton unlikely to pinch-hit vs. Pirates

PITTSBURGH — When the Orioles began to prepare for interleague play in National League ballparks, they had relief pitcher Zach Britton take batting practice with the starters.

Britton handled the bat well in limited action in 2011, and the club thought he might be needed to pitch multiple innings and stay in the game when the pitcher's spot in the lineup comes up.


But the left-hander now has been moved into the closer's role, or at least a late-inning spot, with right-hander Tommy Hunter blowing his past two save opportunities.

So the possibility of having Britton, who is 5-for-8 with a home run and a double in his career, hit in the sixth or seventh inning in interleague play has pretty much been scratched, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Showalter said he doesn't envision Britton coming into games earlier — or being avoided in the ninth — just to save him for an at-bat.

"It might be a tiebreaker, but it is not going to be the driving thing. It depends on how you are going to play out — the good and the bad," Showalter said. "We've got some interchangeable parts down in the bullpen now. We'll have to wait and see. We hope we have the lead in the ninth."

Showalter said because the Orioles are only playing two games in Pittsburgh, he didn't quickly get another reliever ready for pinch-hit duties. He will, however, use starters Bud Norris and Ubaldo Jimenez, if necessary.

Both right-handers won't be pitching in this series and have previously hit in the National League. Norris has hit .147 in 170 at-bats and Jimenez .114 in 273 at-bats.

"I told Ubaldo and Bud to keep their spikes nearby," Showalter said. "Everybody talks about Britton, but what am I going to do, pinch-hit him in the sixth inning, and then he can't pitch [later]?"

Graham fills in at third

Third base coach Bobby Dickerson was away from the team Tuesday to attend the high school graduation of his daughter, Ashley.

Brian Graham, the club's director of player development, filled in as third base coach. Graham, who lives in Pittsburgh, coached third base for Low-A Delmarva on Monday in Charleston to get his timing back. He said he waved home six runners in the Shorebirds' 6-2 victory.

Graham also acted as John Russell's bench coach Saturday while Showalter was in Texas for his daughter's law school graduation.

Around the horn

Center fielder Adam Jones extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single in the first inning. Counting that at-bat, he was hitting .357 with five homers and 11 RBIs in 56 at-bats since the streak began. … Nelson Cruz is expected to start both games in left field in Pittsburgh because there is no designated hitter in interleague games played in National League parks. Heading into Tuesday, Cruz had started 19 games in left field, 18 at DH and four in right field. … Catcher Matt Wieters (right elbow strain) said the discomfort in his elbow seems to improve daily since he had a platelet-rich plasma injection May 12. But there is no date set for him to resume throwing. … Right-hander Edgmer Escalona (right shoulder) also threw his first inning in extended spring training Tuesday against the Twins. He picked up five outs in one inning so he could reach his intended pitch limit. … Outfielder Nolan Reimold (neck) continues to do all baseball activities in Sarasota and has appeared in simulated games. The next step for Reimold is an extended spring training game, Showalter said. … Triple-A right-hander Kevin Gausman gave up four runs and six hits in five innings Tuesday. He struck out six batters and walked one. ... Double-A Bowie outfielder Dariel Alvarez had a career-high six RBIs in Monday's win against Erie. Alvarez, 25, had four hits, including two double and a three-run homer, and scored four runs.



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