Orioles closer Zach Britton, speaking on a conference call from California to the gathered local media at FanFest, said his rehabilitation from a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered last month has been progressing as well as expected.
"I'm feeling really good," Britton said. "I saw the doctor again for my second follow-up of three follow-ups I'll have, and he was really happy with where I'm at. Maybe a little ahead of schedule, but I'm not skipping any steps. Just picking up the pace on things I'm doing now. More walking, getting comfortable in a tennis shoe again and things like that. That'll be a week’s worth of physical therapy right there, getting used to walking in a shoe again and making sure my calf muscle is strong enough to allow me to step on a curb awkwardly or things like that without having any issues. That's our focus, but things are going really well."
While Britton wasn't able to travel to FanFest, which would have impacted his rehab, head athletic trainer Brian Ebel visited him this week and set out a plan that will get the left-hander on a mound by the end of spring training, ideally. The timetable of being out through around the All-Star break hasn't been updated, but Britton said things are ahead of schedule.
"I see the doctor one more time, on Feb. 9, then I'll fly right out to Sarasota," Britton said. "I'll be walking, be back into throwing. I think I can throw next week, but I think we're just going to hold off and try to get to spring. Brian Ebel, the head trainer now, he was out here for the last three days with me, speaking with the doctors, speaking with my physical therapists out here in California.
"We got a really good baseline of what we want to do and what we can accomplish in spring. Hopefully by the time spring is over, I'll look like a healthy player, minus some things. We've got to make sure the ligament is fully healed before we start covering first base and making contact and things like that. From a throwing standpoint and even pitching off the mound, at some point in spring training, toward the middle to the end, I'm sure that'll start happening. But we've got a little ways to go until then. Right now, the progress has been really good. I haven't had any setbacks. I'm a little ahead of schedule, which is nothing but good news."
Overall, Britton said the experience he had last year in suffering an oblique strain in spring training then rushing back and suffering a forearm strain in April, will inform his patience in returning from this injury.
"Unfortunately I had those injuries, so I kind of have at least a baseline of what I know I need to get done," Britton said. "I feel like sometimes in those rehab outings last year, I didn't get as much as I wanted to. I think now going into this year, obviously I've never had surgery, so this is different. I'm fortunate it wasn't anything to my arm. These are things that are pretty reasonable to come back from. But it'll be a different rehab process.
“Mentally, I'm prepared to kind of be on the sidelines watching and maybe I'll be able to motivate myself a little bit more and not feel bad for myself. I think last year mentally, I was just down in the dumps a little bit. This year, I can use it as positive motivation a little bit to get back to where I was. Maybe that'll be a little bit different, the mentality of it."