Earlier this week, O’s left-handed pitching prospect Zach Britton found out he was selected to the USA team for the Futures Game.
One reason Britton got selected for the prestigious game is his excellent sinker-slider combination of pitches that has made him one of the top pitchers in the Eastern League this year.
But he also found out recently that, while the O’s are delighted with his success, they want him to work hard on improving his change-up as well.
The message was delivered in an in person meeting with O’s director of player development John Stockstill. He complimented Britton on his solid season, then reminded him he needs an improved change-up to enhance his chance to succeed at higher levels.
“I’ve been told that I need to use my change-up more. I threw it around 22 times last start. John Stockstill mentioned that. He wants me to try to use it in some 2-0, 3-0 counts. He said you are throwing well, but he wants me to have another option.
“I was kind of a little hesitant to do it, but I threw 22 and probably had one of my better games of the year. It kind of opens me up to another way of pitching. I can go fastball/change-up and be successful.
“He (Stockstill) said you are doing well right now with two pitches. He said now mix in 20 or so change-ups this next outing and next couple of outings. And, don’t just throw them to throw them. I want you to throw them on 2-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-0. If you get the opportunity in Baltimore, that is something you’ll need to do vs. better hitters. It’s just about getting me ready for whatever level is next.”
Britton is now 6-3, 2.62 in 14 games on the year for Bowie. Over his last six starts, he is 4-0, 1.40.
Britton might be able to continue to win with just the two pitches but development is all about working on all your pitches.
“Exactly, that’s what the minor leagues are for. The stats do mean something, but at the end of the day, it’s about developing pitches that you will need in Baltimore.
“He said you might be able to even throw two pitches in Triple-A and have success. But we don’t want you to just be a good Double-A or Triple-A pitcher. We want success in the big leagues,” the 22-year-old Britton said.
“I understand that and it was really neat of John to pull me aside and say that. In the past, that hasn’t really happened. It opened my eyes about how far my change-up has come.”
A few days after his meeting with Stockstill, Britton went out throwing the change more and pitch six scoreless innings of two-hit ball vs. Harrisburg.
Britton says he may be pitching some of his best outings as a pro recently and has he has given up just one earned run over 19 1/3 over his last three starts.
“I think it is (one of my best stretches as a pro), just because I feel like I am pitching more than last year. I am throwing three pitches for strikes. Last year, I don’t want to say I wasn’t pitching, but I was really throwing two pitches and it was more like I’m trying to overpower the guys.
“Now I feel like, I’m not as stubborn. If a guy is on my fastball, I’ll throw the change in there. Last year, I might just try to throw it harder by him. I feel like I am learning how to pitch and feel like that’s the last step that you develop as a pitcher.”