In addition to reassigning pitcher Daniel McCutchen to minor league camp earlier this morning, the Orioles have made three more cuts today.
The club optioned left-hander Zach Britton and infielders Jonathan Schoop and Yamaico Navarro to Triple-A Norfolk. While Schoop and Navarro weren’t expected to make the 25-man roster, Britton was in the thick of the competition for the fifth starter’s job.
Sending the 25-year-old to the minors begins to clear up the rotation picture, as Jake Arrieta appears to be the favorite to win it. Steve Johnson and Brian Matusz also remain alive after the latest wave of cuts, which reduce the major league camp roster to 40.
Britton had posted a 6.10 ERA in five games (three starts) spanning 10 1/3 innings in Grapefruit League action.
Schoop, one of the Orioles’ top prospects, batted .667 with a homer and four RBIs in three exhibition games.
Navarro batted .276 with four RBIs in 21 spring games.
Update: “It’s disappointing, but I think you understand it’s a fierce competition and guys have thrown better than me. Plain and simple,” Britton said. “I have some things I need to get better at. Coming off that injury last year, I still feel like there are some adjustments that need to be made and it’s easier to do that down there than the big league level. Especially because we want to win right off the bat. Hopefully, spend a month down there, get everything straightened out and then help the team. And I feel like that’s more beneficial, rather than starting with the team and struggling and not feeling right. I think it’s beneficial and I’m going to use it that way.”
The timing surprised Britton, though the end result was probably expected, especially after he allowed five runs and seven hits in 1 2/3 innings in his last start.
“I guess, but Jake has been throwing the ball well,” Britton said. “It’s a competition and he’s definitely proving that he probably deserves it. Him and (Matusz) have both done really well. You can’t take anything away from those guys. And like I said, I think I have stuff I need to work on. Mentally, I don’t think I was feeling like I was ready to be with the team and I’m sure they saw that. I think I need to get some things straightened out at minor league camp. And it’s a lot easier to do that rather than being in that competition and really trying to get people out. In minor league camp, I can do some things a little bit differently and not worry about those results.
“It’s frustrating. For me, I had that bad outing last time and that hurt my chances. But guys that have thrown well and do get sent down, I think that affects them. It’s tough. You want to pitch well and make the team, and when that doesn’t happen, I think it hurts those guys a little more. But I feel like there’s stuff I need to work on and get better at.”
Britton said he wasn’t given a timetable for a return to the majors.
“They were like, ‘Hey, you’ve done well when you’re healthy. There’s definitely things we think you can improve on to be more consistent as a pitcher,’ ” Britton said. “They didn’t say this, but I’m getting to that age where you have to start putting some consistency together. With where the options are with me right now, it’s definitely, ‘Hey, figure it out. Let’s get consistent so I can stick in the big leagues from now on and not go through the up-and-down process anymore.’
“There were things that I did last year with my arm slot that was probably making my sinker inconsistent. Being my best pitch, you don’t want that to be inconsistent. Getting confident with that pitch again and attacking hitters with that pitch is something they want me getting back to.”