The most encouraging news on pitcher Zach Britton is he's in good health. As a bonus, he also says that his stuff is getting better.
The results at Triple-A Norfolk might not reflect it, but he's looking beyond the statistics.
First, here's what Britton says about his physical condition:
"I'm feeling good. I definitely feel like I'm starting to get stronger. My arm is getting back in its natural slot, especially yesterday. I was definitely getting back to where I should be with my arm slot. And the strength in it is good. It's better each time out. It's just a slow progression. Obviously, I'd like it to be quicker, but I have to take slow baby steps right now."
Britton posted a 0.75 ERA in two rehab starts at Double-A Bowie, but he's gone 1-1 with a 5.91 ERA in two starts at Norfolk covering 10 2/3 innings. He's allowed seven runs and 14 hits, walked four and struck out four. Yesterday, he gave up three runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings in Buffalo.
"The results in Triple-A, obviously you want to do well every time out, but talking to (manager) Ron Johnson and Griff (pitching coach Mike Griffin), it's more about how I am physically. And my stuff was really good yesterday, as far as movement and sharpness," Britton said. "Most of the balls they put in play were on really weak contact, which tells me a lot about my movement. I think two balls were hit in the outfield and both were base hits, so I got a lot of balls on the ground and induced a lot of weak contact, which is good. But the results at the end of the day weren't good. My stuff was a lot better than my first time out. Once I put all the pieces together physically, the results will be there.
"My stuff is there for two or three innings, then it goes away and I try to get it back. Right now, it's like spring training, where you have three or four good innings and then try to figure it out.
"My stuff is actually better here than in Double-A. It's funny how that works. You catch breaks in Double-A and don't give up any runs. You come up here and your stuff is better, more balls are hit on the ground, but they find holes. When my stuff gets sharper, balls tend not to find holes as much. I know the results will be there. I'm getting weak contact, but sometimes the ball gets through the holes."
The Orioles activated Britton from the 60-day disabled list while they were in Boston and optioned him to Norfolk rather than slot him into their rotation, a move he understood and endorsed.
"I don't know if I was expecting it. I really didn't know what to expect," he said. "I felt like they knew not to rush me, and if my stuff isn't where it needs to be, there's no pressure to get me up there right away. It's more important that whenever I'm ready to get an opportunity. It benefits the team more. If I go up there and I'm not ready, who knows how it's going to turn out, especially the way we're playing. You don't want someone who's not at their best in the rotation.
"I think they made the right decision. I wasn't ready. I might have stepped up if I was activated and told them I'm not ready. I don't want to hurt myself or the team, so I think it was the right move.
"I think I only need a couple more outings to sharpen my stuff and be back in a nice groove."
While I'm down on the farm, I'll mention here that Single-A Frederick's Dylan Bundy, Ty Kelly and Jeremy Nowak were named 2012 Carolina League All-Stars. Kelly is the lone starter and will play third base.