It might not have been the situation he envisioned, but Orioles top pitching prospect Zach Britton was at Camden Yards on Friday, receiving a fairly significant consolation prize.
Britton, the 22-year-old left-hander who excelled at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk this season, was presented with the Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award, while Double-A first baseman Joe Mahoney received the Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award.
"It means a lot. It means you had a good year and the Orioles thought so, too," Britton said. "So it's just a big honor, especially with the guys that have won it in the past. I guess anything with Jim Palmer's name on it is a big honor."
For much of August, there was speculation as to whether Britton, who didn't receive a major league invitation to spring training, would get a call-up when rosters expanded in September. He didn't, but came to Baltimore to be honored for his strong 2010.
"Obviously, I was upset that I didn't go to [big league] spring training, but I think it pushed me a little bit more to have a good year and kind of work on the things I need to work on," said Britton, who was 10-7 with a 2.70 ERA in 27 combined games at Norfolk and Bowie. "I think this experience, not coming up here in September, is going to do the same thing for me going into the offseason. It's going to light a fire under my butt. … And push me to win a spot in spring training."
Britton said he was hoping for a call-up and that he and his agents spoke with club president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, but the decision was made to shut him down for the year after Norfolk's season ended.
"Obviously, I am not happy with the decision, but you have to respect their choice of who to bring up, and I don't hold any hard feelings," Britton said. "This year is over with for me. So I kind of forget about it, learn from it and get ready to go into spring training."
Mahoney, 23, not only was the organization's best minor league hitter — he batted .307 with 30 doubles, 18 homers and 78 RBIs in 124 combined games at Bowie and Single-A Frederick — but he also was one of its biggest surprises. A sixth-round pick in 2007, Mahoney wasn't listed among the Orioles' top 30 prospects by Baseball America to begin the season.
"I try not to look at any of that stuff. There are guys on that list that shouldn't be on it, and there are guys that aren't on that list that are great players," Mahoney said. "To me, it's more important what these guys think about me, the Orioles think about me, and not Baseball America or whoever is writing an article about the Orioles."
Mahoney, 6 feet 6, was always considered a good athlete, but has slimmed down and blossomed as a baseball player. He is considered the best defensive first baseman in the system and was twice named the organization's Hitter of the Month.
"The Orioles are a great organization, and for them to give me this award speaks a lot about the year I had," Mahoney said. "I've come a long way, working hard, and trying to be the future first baseman for the Orioles, hopefully."
More minor league honors
The Orioles also honored Single-A Delmarva outfielder Kieron Pope with the Moe Drabowsky Comeback Player of the Year Award, Frederick first baseman Jacob Julius with the Elrod Hendricks Minor League Community Service Award, Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin with the Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award and amateur scout Rich Morales with the Jim Russo Scout of the Year Award.
Pope, 23, is one of the organization's best stories. A 2005 fourth-round pick, Pope broke his femur during spring training in 2009, putting his career in serious jeopardy. He had to have three surgeries, and doctors told him he might not play again, but he kept rehabilitating and made it to Delmarva this season, where he hit .250 with six homers and 44 RBIs in 75 games.
"It was pretty tough from the start when the initial injury happened," Pope said. "But I followed through it and got stronger and worked my way back slowly."
Julius, 24, also received a similar community service from the Carolina League for his work with underprivileged children and instructing at clinics. Morales has been an amateur scout with the Orioles since 2006, now concentrating on South Texas for the organization.
Griffin won the development award for the second consecutive season, becoming the first repeat winner. Griffin, who played six seasons in the majors, including 1987 with the Orioles, is in his second year as the Tides' pitching coach.
Matusz and Arrieta
Brian Matusz threw a bullpen session Friday and declared that his left triceps, bruised when he was hit with a liner Monday, doesn't bother him.
"I don't even feel it anymore, not even to the touch," Matusz said. "I should be good to go."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before Friday's game that he was waiting to hear from Matusz before declaring him ready to take his regular turn Monday against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
"If Brian pitches OK [on Friday], it'd be fair to say he pitches Monday," Showalter said.
The Orioles have not announced that Jake Arrieta will pitch Tuesday in Boston, as he is scheduled to. Arrieta has thrown 1731/3 innings this season between the Orioles and Norfolk, an increase on his career high of 1502/3 set in 2009. But Showalter has said previously that he would like Arrieta to get a feel for pitching in Fenway Park before he is shut down.
On Friday, Arrieta played long toss without any discomfort and was scheduled to meet with a team doctor. He expects to have his normal bullpen session Saturday.
"I know that one of the docs is going to be here, and he wants to talk to me. I guess after that, we'll probably make a decision," Arrieta said. "I'm scheduled to throw a [bullpen Saturday] and, as of now, I'm still throwing it. I'm just planning on starting on Tuesday until I know otherwise."
Arrieta, 24, has repeatedly said he wants to pitch until the end of the season.
"If it's up to me, I'll pitch. I know that everybody wants to take precaution," Arrieta said. "I guess it just boils down to how important they feel another start or two is going to be. If it's me, I want to be out there pitching because I feel 100 percent."
Andino starts at third
Robert Andino made his fourth appearance and first big league start at third base Friday. It's part of Showalter's plan to evaluate certain players before season's end. Andino, the club's utility infielder in 2009, was taken off the 40-man roster in the spring and is out of options for 2011.
"He's a talented young man. He's had some challenges that he should have behind him by now," Showalter said. "I think it's time for him, an opportunity that I think he's really wanting to take advantage of. We will see."
Around the horn
Manny Machado, the club's top pick (third overall) in the 2010 amateur draft, will take batting practice Saturday before the Yankees game and then be introduced to the Camden Yards crowd. … Infielder Julio Lugo saw an ear, nose and throat specialist Friday, and nothing out of the ordinary was discovered. He expects to undergo more tests to find out the cause of his recurring headaches…. Norfolk manager Bobby Dickerson has joined the Orioles as a late-season coaching addition. … Bowie head athletic trainer Joe Benge, a Calvert Hall and Loyola University graduate, was honored at Camden Yards on Friday as Eastern League Trainer of the Year. … Heading into Friday night, reliever Koji Uehara is tied with Chad Bradford for most consecutive appearances by an Oriole without a walk at 24.