During my phone conversation yesterday with Triple-A Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin, I asked him about left-hander Zach Britton and the physical issues that have contributed to his struggles with the Tides.
Britton's first start on April 7 ended after two innings because of a blister on the side of his left thumbnail. It first developed while he threw at Twin Lakes Park on the day that the Orioles broke camp.
Jake Arrieta and Kevin Gausman also developed blisters on their pitching hands that day. Maybe it was something in the water.
In his most recent start, Britton allowed seven runs (six earned) and 12 hits over 5 1/3 innings. In his previous outing, he surrendered three runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings, with four walks and six strikeouts, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter referenced a broken nail on Britton's left index finger.
"Right now, the blister doesn't seem to be a factor right now," Griffin said. "The nail on his finger, they're taking care of that. They've done some things."
Griffin isn't laying all the blame in Britton's left hand.
"His last two outings haven't been quite Zach Britton stellar-like, but I'm not real worried about it right now," Griffin said. "It's just a timing issue right now with him. Zach and I looked at video for about a half-hour yesterday, going over quite a few of his starts this season here at Norfolk. (Today), he'll have a side session, and we'll iron out a few things. I'm really confident about that.
"I don't think the blister is really an issue right now, and the nail is just a maintenance thing outing to outing to outing. It's being fixed right now.
"I look for a good start from Zach in his next outing. It's just his timing with his mechanics, something he's going through that we saw on video and we'll fix it."
While Britton remains with Norfolk, the Orioles begin a three-game series tonight with Tampa Bay at Camden Yards. All three Rays starters were listed as TBA in the Orioles' game notes on Wednesday, but here are the matchups:
Friday: Jason Hammel (5-1, 4.93 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (1-2, 5.25 ERA)
Saturday: TBA (Jair Jurrjens) vs. Roberto Hernandez (2-4, 4.43 ERA)
Sunday: Chris Tillman (3-1, 3.40 ERA) vs. Matt Moore (7-0, 2.44 ERA)
Saturday's game is on FOX.
Hellickson is 6-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) against the Orioles. He gave up five runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings on April 3 at Tropicana Field.
Chris Davis is 8-for-18 (.444) with two doubles, one home run, six RBIs and seven strikeouts against Hellickson. Adam Jones is 10-for-31 (.323) with one double and three home runs. Matt Wieters is 4-for-21 (.190).
The red-hot Manny Machado is 1-for-6 with a double.
Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla are a combined 0-for-18.
James Loney is 9-for-31 with two doubles, three homers and eight RBIs against Hammel.