Britton spun another scoreless inning this afternoon for Triple-A Norfolk, allowing one hit and striking out one batter in Columbus. He hasn’t surrendered a run in four combined appearances with the Tides, Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie.
The weather and affiliate schedules have forced Britton to move around, but he’s been sharp at every stop. He needed only seven pitches today, six for strikes, to dispose of the Clippers in the sixth inning. Another out was recorded via a ground ball, a common occurrence on his rehab assignment.
The Orioles continue to control the pace of Britton’s rehab, resisting any urges to push him faster. They’re keeping him on a schedule that’s made public only in bits and pieces.
Britton still hasn’t pitched on back-to-back days, but it’s supposed to happen Sunday and Monday. He’s already worked multiple innings by facing four batters on Tuesday, giving him two “ups.” Britton hit a batter but also struck out one and induced three ground balls, his sinker offering the same hard bite that flummoxed major league opponents in 2016 while he converted all 47 save opportunities.
Assuming the back-to-back outings run smoothly, Britton figures to be activated on June 15 while the Orioles continue their homestand against the Marlins. They’re off the previous day, which puts him on hold.
Britton underwent surgery on Dec. 21 as the early speculative timetables had him on the disabled list through the first half of the season. Dr. Kenneth Jung handled the procedure and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel has been in charge of a rehab process that’s sped up Britton’s recovery - not a single setback through his mound sessions, fielding drills and game activity - and positioned the two-time All-Star for a mid-June return.
Scouts have followed Britton’s various appearances as rival teams gauge his health and chart the effectiveness of his pitches. He’s a prime trade chip at the non-waiver deadline while approaching free agency and the Orioles aren’t expected to offer a significant raise for a closer.
Returning Britton to a starting role has been discussed - the money would make more sense to the Orioles - but he’s inclined to stay in the back end of the bullpen, where he’s saved games and a career.
The bullpen should be able to add Darren O’Day within the next few days unless he begins to experience more discomfort in his right elbow. O’Day is slated to pitch tonight for Single-A Frederick in Potomac.
O’Day walked three batters Tuesday night in two-thirds of an inning, and all three runners scored after his removal. The elbow was fine, but his command needed some work.
Manager Buck Showalter noted that at least one of the walks could have been avoided if the plate umpire hadn’t tightened the strike zone.