Britton still targeting May return, looking back on big O’s trades

Orioles closer Zach Britton reaches another important date today in his recovery from right Achilles surgery.

He’s hoping that it’s the latest step, so to speak, in the right direction.

Britton will undergo his third checkup from Dr. Kenneth Jung of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles before he flies to Sarasota and reports early to spring training. He expects to receive more encouraging news - that he’s still a bit ahead of schedule.

Calling into the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” last night on 105.7 The Fan, Britton said he’s walking in sneakers now that he’s out of the boot, hasn’t experienced any setbacks and doesn’t really give the foot much thought. He’ll learn more about his camp schedule upon his arrival, including when he can play catch and build up his arm.

Head athletic trainer Brian Ebel, promoted from assistant this winter, already has visited Britton to check on his rehab.

zach-britton-pitch-white.jpg“It’s moving along well,” Britton said. “I’m walking without a limp, which is nice. The strength in my calf and everything is kind of coming back. So I’m in a good spot right now. I’m feeling really good. I’ll see the doctor again one more time and then I’ll head out to Sarasota and get ready to start throwing and doing some other baseball stuff that I’ll be allowed to do. But I’ll have a little bit more clarity once the doctor sees it, puts his hands on it and gauges where he thinks the ligament’s at right now.

“I’m seven weeks removed from surgery, so I’m in a time now where he can start doing a lot more movements on body weight and things like that. So, yeah, I’m excited where I’m at. A little ways to go, obviously, but nothing but positive news so far.”

Jung performed the surgery on Dec. 21 after Britton ruptured the Achilles two days earlier while running sprints as part of his workout at agent Scott Boras’ training center.

Early projections had Britton missing the first half of the season, but he remained optimistic last night that he could return in May. He won’t rush it, of course, but the possibility still exists.

“If you’re saying everything falls in line the way it should, I think that’s realistic to be pitching off a mound and things like that,” he said. “My understanding is you protect the surgery as long as you can and then after about 12 weeks post-surgery it’s pretty much you’re free to go. And so as quickly as you can get yourself in game shape without risking an arm injury and things like that, it’s kind of on you. The doctor kind of lets you go after 12 weeks and I’m over halfway there. But at the same time we’ve got to make sure my arm’s ready. It’s not like 12 weeks comes up and I can pitch in a big league game.

“I haven’t been able to do my offseason throwing like I wanted to. I was in the process of that when I got hurt, so there are different stages that I’ve got to get done. But so far everything’s going really well and hopefully I can get back as quick as possible and not have any setbacks. That’s the main focus.

“Luckily, every time I’ve talked to the doctor he’s been really surprised with the lack of inflammation I’ve had, the swelling. I really haven’t had any, which is rare, so it’s been pretty positive this entire time.

“I think the biggest thing that scares me is the first time you run again. There are some mental hurdles I’m going to have to get over. Touching first base on a PFP or getting stepped on when you’re walking and getting a flat tire. Little things you don’t really think about too often. But now that I’m walking full-time in a shoe with my kid, I don’t even think about it, which I guess is really good. I walk on sidewalks and I’m not worried about slipping or tripping, so I think I’m a little bit ahead of the game mentally, but there are still some things I’ll need to get over before I’m ready to go 100 percent running and pitching and things like that.”

I reminded Britton last night that the Orioles still need three starters for their rotation and former teammate Jake Arrieta - also a Boras client - remains on the free agent market. Perhaps Britton could talk him into coming back.

Britton laughed and dismissed the idea. Arrieta will get paid, Britton said, but not by the Orioles.

“I don’t think he’s coming back,” Britton said.

So much for me starting that rumor. I had such grand plans.

“I wouldn’t back that horse,” Britton said.

Meanwhile, yesterday marked the 10-year anniversary of the Erik Bedard trade to the Mariners that gave the Orioles Tony Butler and four other guys.

OK, I’m done making that joke. I promise.

Center fielder Adam Jones and pitchers Chris Tillman, George Sherrill and Kam Mickolio also were included in the deal and it goes down as one of the finest in franchise history.

I can’t believe that 10 years have passed. Time really does fly.

As a fun activity, give me your picks for the top five best trades in Orioles history. I’ve heard the above mentioned as being No. 1. Others will nominate Frank Robinson from the Reds for Milt Pappas in 1965. The J.J. Hardy deal with the Twins in 2010 shouldn’t be ignored. Same goes for the 1968 trade that brought Mike Cuellar from the Astros.

I’m fond of the 1974 deal that sent Enos Cabell and Rob Andrews to the Astros for Lee May and someone named Jay Schlueter. And the 10-player trade with the Yankees in 1976, with Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez, Rick Dempsey, Rudy May and Dave Pagan coming to Baltimore.

The 1974 trade of Dave McNally, Rich Coggins and Bill Kirkpatrick to the Expos for Ken Singleton and Mike Torrez worked out quite nicely for the Orioles. I hated it as a kid, unable to comprehend why the Orioles would part with McNally and Coggins and knowing so little about the Expos or any of their players.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette stole reliever Brad Brach from the Padres in November 2013, an under-the-radar transaction involving minor league pitcher Devin Jones. Some of his finest work.

Your turn.

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