Brach on bullpen, Britton’s progress and more

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles return home today after two games on the East Coast to face the Blue Jays at 1:05 p.m. Mike Wright Jr. is on the mound and first baseman Chris Davis wants to be in the lineup.

Manager Buck Showalter could make him wait until Sunday, also in Sarasota, but the return is coming.

Reliever Brad Brach threw two innings Thursday afternoon against the Red Sox’s Triple-A team at Twin Lakes Park, the first time he’s gone more than one this spring. He didn’t allow a run or a hit, issued two walks in his second frame and struck out three.

“It went good,” he said. “The first time going multiples is always tough, so I felt like I could barely get to the plate when I was warming up for the second inning, but it went well. Got to throw all my pitches. Threw some of my off-speed in hitter’s counts, stuff like that, so it was good work.”

Brad-Brach-throw-black-sidebar.jpgHitters at the lower levels of the minor league system tend to swing at anything, making it impossible to set them up. The Triple-A batters tend to exhibit a little more patience.

“It wasn’t that bad,” he said. “The Triple-A guys have a good idea of the strike zone and hitting approach, stuff like that. When you face low A, high A guys, anything that’s straight and is it’s in the zone, it’s like it’s the first time they’ve seen stuff in the zone that’s hard, so they’re swinging right away. But (Thursday) wasn’t bad. It’s actually really good getting to face those guys.

“It’s a little tough in between innings because the adrenaline’s not there, there’s nobody there, so that was like the hardest part was going back out there for the second inning. But it’s good to get out there and do that so you’re ready for it in-season.”

Brach knows that the bullpen on opening day also will include Darren O’Day, Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier. Three spots remain a puzzle due in part to the vacancy at the back end of the rotation.

Wright, Miguel Castro and Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr. are relief candidates if they fail to earn a starting spot. Wright is out of options and Cortes can’t be sent down without clearing waivers and being offered back to the Yankees.

Showalter hasn’t indicated how many lefties he wants to carry in the bullpen. If the total is only two and Cortes joins Bleier, the Orioles won’t be taking Joely Rodriguez, Josh Edgin or Donnie Hart to Baltimore.

Rule 5 right-hander Pedro Araujo has an excellent chance to stick with the club.

“I’ve seen a really good angle from his pitches,” Brach said. “I don’t know if it’s a changeup - I can’t really tell from the bullpen - but the changeup or the off-speed seems to keep hitters off balance and he seems to throw strikes, which in my opinion is probably the biggest thing, just throwing competitive strikes.

“Going out there and attacking the zone, he’s been really good with that, so definitely a guy I’m really interested in seeing here the last couple of weeks as the regulars are getting more at-bats and he’ll probably get to face some of them.”

Closer Zach Britton could play catch today without the protective boot on his right foot. He’s still aiming for a May 28 return, when he’s eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list.

“When I came to camp, I wasn’t even sure what to expect,” Brach said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting to see him walking around without a boot and stuff like that, so to see that is definitely encouraging. I feel like if he comes back in June that’s a win because everybody’s been talking about July or after the All-Star break. He seems to be ahead of schedule, so it’s been really good.”

Britton’s removal from the bullpen leaves it in a greater state of flux, perhaps more so than in previous springs. The usual battle for one spot has expanded.

“It’s definitely interesting,” Brach said. “I think that can be beneficial to the team as a whole and the bullpen, just because competition always breeds competitiveness and I think that’s huge. If you can be competitive from day one until the end of the season, that helps a lot.

“The last three spots or four spots, whatever it is, it’s always nice seeing good competition. I remember when I was trying to make my team the first time, you want to go out there, you want to leave a good impression. Even if you don’t make the team, as long as you leave a good impression, you’ll get a shot at some point during the year. So it’s exciting seeing all the guys going for the spots and it will be interesting to see how it ends up.”

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