It might seem as if all the Manny Machado trade speculation is sucking the air out of the Orioles clubhouse, but it’s not just about him.
Closer Zach Britton is waiting and wondering, too. So are setup man Brad Brach and center fielder Adam Jones. No one could blame any of them for wishing that the team would start making decisions so they can get on with their lives.
“That would make it easy, right?” Britton said Tuesday. “I figure it’s just going to happen, but I’ve been trying to do my best to avoid it other than just answering the questions and move on. The team’s going to work at their pace and they’re going to do what’s best for the organization, not necessarily what’s best for me. That’s just part of it.”
Britton’s situation hasn’t really lent itself to a quick outcome, because of the Achilles tendon injury that chopped the first two months off of this season. It took a while to settle back into his usual routine — and his 4.63 ERA certainly reflects that — but he has reeled off four straight characteristic outings and is starting to look like his old dominant self.
Some teams might want to see him in a few more save situations, if the Orioles can create any, but it’s pretty clear that he’s going to be pitching somewhere else soon and he’ll be doing that in a pennant race.
Britton is trying to stay in the moment, but he can’t say he hasn’t thought about that.
“Not about a specific team, but I think in general if you’re going to get traded, it’s probably going to be to a team that’s got a shot,’’ he said. “Otherwise, they’re not going to trade for you, so — knowing that — that could be exciting.
“I’m just trying not to get too far ahead of myself. But I know that, yeah, if I go somewhere it’s going to be a good situation where they’re playing winning baseball and I hopefully get a chance to get to the postseason.”
Brach isn’t in quite the same situation, though in an odd twist, both he and Britton entered Tuesday night’s game with the same ERA. Brach has struggled over the past two weeks, suffering multiple-run outings in three of his previous seven appearances.
That’s been hard to stomach for a guy who didn’t have three multiple earned-run outings all last season and had only three the entire season before. He doesn’t claim that the uncertainty that pervades the clubhouse has affected his mindset or his performance, but how could it not?
“It’s been such a frustrating year for us as a team and me as an individual,’’ he said. “Every time I seem to have a good outing, then the next outing is worst then the one I had before. I can’t seem to keep the ball rolling. It’s definitely frustrating.”
Brach acknowledged a general feeling among the Orioles’ free-agent trade targets that the waiting has become the hardest part.
“That definitely seems to be the case,’’ he said. “It’s been going on two months now. It almost seems like it’s so close, [are the deals] really going to change if it’s three weeks from now?”
Still, Britton knows that when the day finally comes and he’s packing up his locker, it will be with very mixed feelings. Who wouldn’t want to jump right into the middle of a pennant race after what the Orioles have suffered through the past 3 ½ months?
“I think it will [be tough],’’ he said. “I’ve been here I think longer than anybody here. … 12 years now in the organization. That’s a long, long time, from an 18-year-old right out of high school to a 30-year-old with two kids and a family now. Yeah, a lot of life and things have been accomplished in this organization. It‘ll be bittersweet to leave. Whenever it comes down to that, then I’ll get a little bit more into it, but I’ve thought about it.”
Though he contributed a great deal to the recent success of the organization as he evolved into one of the best closers in the sport, he said he does feel he owes a debt of gratitude to the Orioles.
“To be drafted by them … to be able to stay here this long, I’m really grateful for that because it doesn’t happen that often that you get 12 years in an organization,’’ he said. “I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity. I’ve met a lot of people who obviously helped me get to this point. So I’ll always be grateful to the people in the organization and obviously the Angelos family, too.”
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
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