TAMPA — Zach Britton hasn’t been told whether he will pitch out of the bullpen if he makes the Baltimore Orioles’ opening day roster, but all signs point in that direction.
After a dominant one-inning performance Wednesday, when the left-hander needed just seven pitches to retire the Philadelphia Phillies in order, Britton is scheduled to pitch Friday on the road against the Minnesota Twins. That would be his fourth outing in 10 days, and he hasn’t pitched more than two innings in any game.
Britton has allowed just one earned run in seven innings this spring, striking out seven batters and walking two. On Wednesday, his trademark sinker sat at 95 mph.
“It felt good,” Britton said. “I just went after them. It was seven or eight pitches, all sinkers over the heart of the plate. Guess the velocity was really good, and that sinker, it was good. It’s good to see that. That’s how I used to feel, and it’s just a confidence booster every outing.”
Orioles Manager Buck Showalter, however, wouldn’t count out the possibility of Britton being used as a starter.
“We’re still going to look to get him multiple innings, so that if something happens between now and the end of spring that he’s an option for us as a starter also,” Showalter said. “So we’re still viewing him as a starter at this point. But you’re right. It does take on the appearance [of him being a reliever] right now.”
While Britton still believes he can contribute as a starter, especially since he said he’s the healthiest since his rookie season in 2011, he is prepared to settle into a relief role.
“My mind is still made up that if I’m throwing the way I’m throwing now, I can be an effective starter in the big leagues, and I’ve shown that I can do that when I’m healthy,” he said. “But at the same time, our five starters are pretty much set, and we know that.”
Right-hander Bud Norris battled through control issues and an untimely throwing error that led to an early exit in his third Grapefruit League start in the Orioles’ 6-0 loss to the New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field on Thursday afternoon.
Norris, who hadn’t allowed a run in five previous innings this spring, lasted 12 / 3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) and four hits. He actually limited the damage by allowing one run during a 39-pitch first inning. After Carlos Beltran’s RBI single, he issued back-to-back walks to load the bases with one out, but escaped.
“It’s not really pretty sometimes,” Norris said. “Any pitcher will tell you that.”
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said his slightly sprained right ankle felt better Thursday, but he wasn’t certain whether he would take swings to test the ankle.
“It feels good today, but we probably won’t push it today,” Wieters said Thursday morning. “We’ll see how it is when it comes in. Hopefully when we get back home [to Sarasota], I’ll be back out there.”
Wieters hopes to return when the Orioles play their next home game on Saturday against the Yankees at Ed Smith Stadium.
“I don’t want to push anything and have a setback,” Wieters said, “but it feels good today, and if it keeps improving like it did today, tomorrow I don’t see a reason why I can’t take some swings and do something tomorrow.” . . .
Center fielder Adam Jones is the father of a boy born Wednesday in Baltimore. Showalter said he expects Jones to be back in the starting lineup Sunday. Jones left camp Tuesday.