Britton, Johnson and probable pitchers

SARASOTA, Fla. - Zach Britton and Jim Johnson threw their bullpen sessions side-by-side this morning before heading indoors for a team meeting.

Both pitchers are progressing as the club had hoped. So far, there haven't been any setbacks.

Britton was throwing off a regular mound for the second time this spring. He pushed his pitch count beyond 30 and mixed in his slider and changeup.

"I think it was a lot better than the first one," he said. "I felt more comfortable on the mound today. I was able to make adjustments a lot quicker, too, and I was throwing a little bit harder, my tempo was a little better.

"Obviously, my command can get a little better, but it's my second bullpen, so I'm not putting those expectations on myself right now. The next one, I'll try to evaluate a little more from a command standpoint, try to hit some corners and do some different things."

Britton will throw another bullpen session on Tuesday, with more pitches added. He estimated that he could be ready for his first game next week after two or three sessions - perhaps a March 11 B game.

"I'm obviously behind a little bit, but I'm off the mound now," he said. "You can speed up the process once you're off the mound. If I'm feeling good, you can eliminate just a random bullpen and get into facing hitters, and I think that's where we're at right now. As long as I feel good."

The Orioles begin their exhibition schedule Monday with split-squad games against the Rays in Port Charlotte and the Pirates in Sarasota.

Alfredo Simon will start against the Rays. Brad Bergesen, Zach Phillips, Miguel Socolovich and Pedro Strop will follow him to the mound.

Brian Matusz will start against the Pirates in the 7:05 p.m. game that airs on MASN. Kevin Gregg, Matt Lindstrom, Troy Patton, Darren O'Day and Oscar Villarreal also are slated to pitch.

Coming up: Comments from manager Buck Showalter.

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