ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Zach Britton showed up at Tropicana Field today and sat in the left field seats. Just a rookie pitcher and his thoughts.
Britton got the surprise call yesterday that he was joining the Orioles in St. Petersburg and making his major league debut tomorrow afternoon against the Rays. He’ll take it all in before taking the mound.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I was walking around because the last time I came here, it was the game before Wade Boggs got his 3,000th hit. I went up to where I was sitting to just kind of remember that moment. It’s great to be here.”
It hasn’t quite sunk in for Britton that he’ll be facing major league hitters in a game that actually counts.
“I think it will tomorrow,” he said. “I was with these guys a couple days ago, so it doesn’t feel that much different. I’m sure when I get out there, and hopefully there’s a full crowd out there, I’m sure I’ll be a little nervous.
“So far it’s been everything I thought it would be. Obviously, tomorrow will be a very special moment, not just for me but for my family. Everyone’s here, so it’ll really be exciting tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Britton said he received close to 30 ticket requests.
“They all flew in this morning (from Texas), pretty much everybody, so they all got some pretty expensive flights,” he said. “But they all made it.”
Britton was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk despite allowing only three runs in 20 innings. He figured to stay down there at least 20 days so his service clock wouldn’t start, but those plans changed after Brian Matusz came down with a strained intercostal muscle that will force him onto the disabled list. He was working out in Sarasota when the Orioles contacted him yesterday.
“At first, I was bummed to be down there,” he said. “Obviously, I wanted to be here with the team, but Mark (Hendrickson) took me out to lunch and sat me down and just told me you can’t really control that stuff. We thought I was going to be in Norfolk and he told me to go down there and take care of my business, and when it was my time to be up, be up. I think that really helped me. The next day in camp, I came in there and took care of my business. Then, obviously, this happened and I came here.
“I was shocked. I had 20 days imprinted in my mind, or whatever it was going to be, so I was not expecting it at all. I felt like I was way down on the totem pole and they had a lot of options before they were going to bring me up. But unfortunately, Brian’s injury made them rethink that and I’m thankful that I’m here.”
The transition is made a little easier by his success in spring training and his familiarity with his teammates after seven weeks in camp.
“I felt really comfortable in the clubhouse today,” he said. “Everyone there was like, ‘Hey, didn’t we just see you yesterday?’ It’s nice to be back with the guys.
“I didn’t face the Rays in spring training. I think I saw them once, so we’ll see. I’ll be nervous but I’m going to try to continue what I was doing in spring training, which was be aggressive and make them put the ball in play, and if they get hits, they get hits. Pitch my game and not try to nibble and overthrow, which is stupid to say because I’ll probably be overthrowing. It’s going to happen.”