Zach Britton tosses three more shutout innings in Orioles' 3-0 win Wednesday
By By Eduardo A. Encina and The Baltimore Sun
Apr 16, 2014 | 9:43 PM
Over the first two weeks of the season, left-hander Zach Britton has become a valuable weapon for the Orioles out of the bullpen.
Britton provided more evidence of that during the Orioles' 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon, tossing three shutout innings to serve as the bridge between starter Miguel Gonzalez and closer Tommy Hunter.
Britton, a former starter who made the full-time move to the bullpen this spring, has not allowed a run through 11 1/3 innings this season.
"The first weapon is he can get right-handed and left-handed hitters out," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said about Britton. "That's huge for a reliever. He's in a good place right now, and you can see it presentation-wise as much as physically."
Even though five of Britton's six relief appearances this year have been at least two innings, Wednesday's outing was the first time he pitched three frames.
"I think the multiple innings, for me, is more natural than the short bursts," Britton said. "I think, just being able to do anything out of the bullpen, I think, really helps the team. There are still some adjustments I need to make, command every now and then."
Britton worked his way out of a seventh-inning jam after issuing a one-out walk to pinch-hitter Logan Forsythe and then giving up back-to-back singles to load the bases. But he utilized his sinker to get a force out at home plate on a grounder to third base off the bat of Ben Zobrist and then struck out Wil Myers to end the inning.
"I had that walk that almost turned into a jam, so there are still some things I need to fine tune out of the bullpen," Britton said. "But so far so good."
Britton tossed perfect innings in the sixth and eighth innings. Of the nine outs he recorded Wednesday, seven were groundballs and two were strikeouts.
Although he hadn't pitched a three-inning stint this season — even in spring training — until Wednesday, Britton said his experience as a starter helped.
"I've done it for so long, but I think it's the recovery time, if anything," Britton said. "It's not necessarily being out there today and throwing three innings. It's how am I going to feel tomorrow? How am I going to feel the next day. That's what's it's about.
"But the ups and downs, I'm so used to that now, that after starting my whole life, that's not much of an issue."
Showalter on 'honor' of playing in Boston
Showalter usually isn't shy about mentioning the challenges of the Orioles' schedule.
But he said Wednesday that — despite a quick turnaround during the team's four-game series in Boston as part of the annual Patriots' Day festivities — it is an honor that the club can be a part of a special day.
The Orioles and Boston Red Sox will play Monday at 11:05 a.m., the traditional start time on the day of the Boston Marathon, after playing a 7:05 p.m. game on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball the night before at Fenway Park.
It undoubtedly will be an emotional day in the city because it will mark the first Boston Marathon since two bombs exploded near the race's finish line last year, killing three and wounding 264 others.
"I think this year, especially with what that day means to our country, to Boston, and to everybody, in particular, I think it's an honor to be there for that," Showalter said. "I really do. Regardless of the competitive part of it.
"We are both doing the same thing. For what that day represents to Boston, and all our country, I consider it, we all consider it, an honor to be lucky enough to have the schedule fall that way. I think we are all looking forward to paying the respect due there."
Sunday's game was actually moved ahead one hour to account for the early start Monday. ESPN's Sunday night games usually begin at 8:05 p.m.
There's still no word on when Tuesday's rained-out game will be played.
The Orioles and Rays share a common off day June 26 before their series in the last weekend of June, but the teams are unlikely to play on that day because the players' union mandates that teams play no more than 20 days without an off day.
Taking away that off day would force the Orioles to play 24 straight days leading into the All-Star break. And the Rays would be in the middle of a stretch of 27 straight days without that off day.
Both teams would need to approve playing on that day, and that doesn't seem likely.
So it appears that the game will be made up as part of a doubleheader during one of the Rays' two remaining road trips to Baltimore — June 27-29 or Aug. 25-28.
Gausman develops blister, but he appears OK
Triple-A Norfolk right-hander Kevin Gausman developed a blister on his right middle finger during his start Tuesday night, but he isn't expected to miss any time.
Gausman (0-1) left the game three batters into the fourth inning in the Tides' 15-0 loss to Gwinnett after allowing four runs and seven hits. He also walked three and struck out just one.
The Orioles No. 2 prospect, according to Baseball America, had allowed just three runs (two earned) over his previous 8 2/3 innings entering Tuesday's start and was still reeling from illness, Showalter said.
Around the horn
The Orioles' starting rotation for the Boston series will be right-hander Chris Tillman on Friday, right-hander Bud Norris on Saturday, right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez on Sunday and left-hander Wei-Yin Chen on Monday. … Because of an illness that has lingered in the Orioles clubhouse since last week, team doctors and trainers ordered that the entire clubhouse be disinfected — all the way down to the ping-pong paddles and pool sticks. … Right-handed relief pitcher Evan Meek was back in uniform Wednesday after a bout with the flu, but Showalter didn't use him. … Matt Wieters' sacrifice fly Wednesday was his 54th career RBI against the Rays, tying him with the Toronto Blue Jays' Adam Lind for the most against the Rays franchise. … Nick Markakis recorded his fifth multihit game of the season on Wednesday and has hit safely in nine of his past 10 games. … The No. 42 jerseys worn in honor of Jackie Robinson on Wednesday will be auctioned off at Orioles.com/auction, and a team-autographed jersey will be auctioned at MLB.com. Proceeds will go to the Orioles Charitable Foundation and the Jackie Robinson Foundation. ... Orioles third baseman Manny Machado's first time running the bases on Wednesday in Sarasota went well. He will continue to test his surgically-repaired left knee and the strength throughout his left leg on the base paths at least through the weekend.