NEW YORK — It’s been nearly two months since the Orioles traded reliever Zach Britton to the New York Yankees, and even though the left-hander’s relief role still isn’t as defined as it was when he was Orioles closer for parts of five years, he said Friday that he’s become comfortable pitching in pinstripes.
While pitching mostly in the seventh and eighth innings, Britton posted a 4.70 ERA over his first 15 outings with the Yankees. But after the calendar changed from August to September, Britton, 30, didn’t allow an earned run over six innings in his first six appearances, holding opponents to an .053 batting average. Still, he’s been used much less frequently than he’s been used to, and has received just one save opportunity this month, converting it in his appearance Tuesday.
“I feel pretty good,” Britton said Friday. “I feel comfortable with the team. My teammates are great, so that’s made it easy. The role is the biggest challenge, but I think I’ve found a routine so that I’m prepared for any and all situations that they bring me in, whether it’s the sixth or the ninth. And they’ve also done a good job of giving me an idea. The games that I’ve been closing, they’ve given me some heads up before the game that I’ve been doing that. It’s been a little adjustment going from a defined role to everyone down in the pen here no one has a defined role, so we’re all kind of in the same boat. So I just pick those guys’ brains a little bit.”
Britton said he’s kept in contact with many of his old Orioles teammates now playing elsewhere — Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day. And while it’s been different pitching for the Yankees, he said the atmosphere is much like the one he experienced early during the Orioles’ resurgence from 2012 to 2016.
“I don’t think anything is going to feel like Baltimore felt like,” Britton said. “That’s your first organization. That’s where I still know so many people from. I was there since I was 18 years old and there until I got traded.
“I don’t think it’s ever going to feel like that, but I think I’m getting more comfortable here and with my teammates. It feels like I’ve known these guys forever. It’s just a credit to being in a young clubhouse. It reminds me of the way it was in Baltimore when we were really good and we acquired some guys and it felt like they had been here forever. I think that’s what it feels like here.”
Cobb back, Cashner not
While right-hander Alex Cobb will return to the rotation Sunday after testing his right middle finger with a bullpen session before Friday’s game, the return of right-hander Andrew Cashner isn’t imminent, manager Buck Showalter said.
Cobb last pitched Sept. 11, but left that game after two innings because he opened a blister on his middle finger. Going into the start, the Orioles gave Cobb six days off hoping added rest would resolve his lingering blister problem.
He threw a bullpen session Wednesday and then another one before Friday’s series opener at Yankee Stadium. Both were successful and Cobb was interested in filling Sunday’s starting rotation hole against the Yankees.
“There’s a couple concerns and there’s a couple things that have gone by that I’m not too concerned about,” Cobb said. “It’s a blister. Outside of having some time off, I’m not too concerned about any type of injury. I don’t know for sure if we’re going to fall into the same thing that happened last time. I’ll never know that because the skin isn’t going to fully heal until the end of the year, until the offseason. But at the same time, it’s not painful enough to where I think it’s going to affect me too much either.”
Cashner, who has left knee bursitis, still hasn’t thrown off a mound. So he’s still several days away from returning to the rotation, if at all, with just nine games remaining after Friday.
“I don’t think Andrew’s in the mix [right now], though he seems to be moving around well and doing OK,” Showalter said. “I know what a competitive guy he is and how much he’d like to do that, but if there’s any doubt at all we’re not going to pitch him.”
Around the horn
Rookie pitchers Josh Rogers and Luis Ortiz didn’t make the trip to New York, both of their seasons over. A hamstring injury Ortiz suffered in his first major league start ended his season, and Rogers was shut down after making three big leagues starts because he passed the 150-inning mark for the season. … As the Yankees ponder who to start in a potential wild-card game, Showalter jokingly said they should acquire Joe Saunders, who threw 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball in the Orioles’ 2012 American League wild-card game win at the Texas Rangers.