BOSTON — Each time Orioles closer Zach Britton gets on a mound as he continues to prepare for his return from the disabled list, the goal is to steadily simulate a game-like atmosphere. And before Friday’s game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, he threw what would be considered his second live batting practice session but with a few wrinkles thrown in.
Britton threw two sessions of 15 pitches each with a break between to simulate a between-innings break, followed by a pitchers’ fielding practice session. Unlike his previous session, which was just one 15-pitch batting practice, he didn’t tell the hitters he faced — in this instance Craig Gentry and Andrew Susac — what pitches he was throwing. The hitters attempted to work at-bats. Bullpen catcher Jett Ruiz called pitches and pitching coach Roger McDowell called balls and strikes.
“Just being competitive, not worrying about delivery as much, and [thinking about] all the other things that flood your mind when you’re coming back from an injury,” Britton said. “When the guys can actually swing, you get a little more competitive and you focus more on making better pitches than you would if the other guy is just standing up there and that’s nice.
“Craig and Susac, they’re going to give me a nice look. They’re not just going to swing at everything. And that’s why I wanted them to do it, because I know these guys have 100-200 at-bats under their belt and they’re seeing the ball. So, they’re not going to just chase stuff that guys up here wouldn’t chase. They’re going to give me a good look, so I think it’s going to be good for me going forward.”
The intensity will ramp up again in a simulated game before Tuesday’s game in Chicago. Britton will likely have at least two simulated outings before the team considers starting a minor league rehabilitation assignment. Manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday’s simulated game is currently scheduled to be one inning, but there is a two-inning outing built into his rehab.
“It’s more about me simulating an inning, so today if I throw four balls and walk a guy, act like there’s a guy on first. That’s actually what you’re doing,” Britton said. “The BP, you have the screen up there and it’s more about just getting your pitch count up, where especially the last 15, we were like, ‘Hey, let’s work it like an inning.’ If you walk Craig or Susac, act like there’s a guy on first. You give up a hit. Things like that. And I think that’s going forward — maintaining that focus the next two times before I get in a rehab game.”
Right-hander Darren O’Day (hyperextended right elbow) threw another bullpen session before Friday’s game, but his return from the DL is still not imminent, Showalter said.
“That was better than the last time, so that was encouraging,” Showalter said. “Still not quite there, still have to get a little bit still lingering in there out of there before we activate him.”
O’Day likely wouldn’t be activated until Sunday at the earliest, and might need another bullpen session before returning from the DL.
“If he comes in tomorrow and he doesn’t feel anything, we’ll move pretty quickly, but until he comes in the next day and doesn’t have any residual discomfort, then we’re not going to go there,” Showalter said. “Obviously, he’s worth waiting on and we want to get it right the first time. … He might come in tomorrow and say, ‘I feel great. Let’s go.’ ”
Waiting out the rain
Showalter has yet to announced the starter for Sunday’s series finale in Boston, and likely won’t until getting a better idea of whether the teams will be able to get Saturday’s game in through a forecast of bad weather.
Right now, right-hander David Hess appears to be the leading candidate for Sunday. Hess is currently scheduled to start Sunday for Triple-A Norfolk. But if Saturday’s game is rained out, Showalter could push right-hander Dylan Bundy to Sunday.
Around the horn
Outfielder Colby Rasmus (hip) took extended spring training at-bats in consecutive days for the first time since landing on the DL. Showalter said he is responding well to an injection he received in the hip. He is expected to go on a minor league rehab assignment around May 24. … Orioles legend Brooks Robinson turned 81 on Friday.