NEW YORK - So much for the rotation being settled after the Orioles failed to make a trade for a starter.
Zach Britton allowed seven runs and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings today, with three walks and three strikeouts. He sat at his locker after the game, his head bowed, his next start in doubt.
Manager Buck Showalter didn’t offer Britton a vote of confidence. He was noncommittal when asked whether the left-hander would get another start.
Showalter also raised questions about Tommy Hunter’s immediate role after the right-hander threw 14 pitches in the eighth inning in what amounted to a bullpen day before Friday’s scheduled start against the Rays at Tropicana Field
“We’ll let the smoke clear after the off day, make sure Tommy (Hunter’s) fine,” Showalter said. “He had what amounted to a little work day today. He needed to throw about 15 pitches. I think he threw 13 or 14. We held him out from his normal work day today in case we had a problem. We knew we were a little short down there.
“I wasn’t going to pitch four of our guys today. We used them to win the first two games and I’m fine with that. We’ll see.”
In his last start, Britton allowed six runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Athletics. He blanked the Indians on four hits over six innings before that outing.
“Ball never really got in the zone consistently with sink today,” Showalter said. “I was hoping, first hitter, a sharp ground ball, but then you see balls getting up in the air off him. And he had some counts that weren’t in his favor and he really never got in a rhythm.”
Britton has walked 14 batters in 18 1/3 innings. Is he nibbling too much?
“He’s not trying to. It may appear that way,” Showalter said. “A lot of times, pitches that people pass at the Triple-A level, they don’t pass that up here. He’s got a little bit of a track record and people know what he’s trying to do out there. He’s not going to ambush anybody with what he tries to do. When he’s got command of the secondary pitch, it makes them be a lot more aggressive. And he really never got in a rhythm where they had to think about anything being a strike other than something centered up. He had to really elevate the ball some. He spiked a lot of sinkers.”
Next question: Is Britton regressing?
“No. He had a really good start,” Showalter said, referring to the game in Cleveland. “Where we are and knowing what Zach needs to bring, he’ll figure it out at some point in his career as a pitcher. We feel confident about that. It’s just not happening right now. It’s frustrating for him and for us becuase we see glimpses of it.
“The tough thing is there was a game there to be won. There really was. (Phil) Hughes is a guy who, you give him that type of cushion, he starts throwing that high fastball, the fly balls. If you can wait it out and grind out some at-bats, we feel like we would have scored some runs today.”
They would have scored plenty if they hadn’t gone 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11.
Note: In a completely unrelated item, Single-A Frederick’s Dylan Bundy turned in the longest outing of his professional career tonight, allowing one unearned run and two hits in 6 2/3 innings against Lynchburg to improve his ERA to 2.57. He walked two, struck out eight and committed a balk.
Bundy retired 16 of the last 17 batters he faced.
It shouldn’t be much longer before he’s bumped up to Double-A Bowie.