After success at Bowie & Norfolk, Britton wonders if Baltimore is next

O's 22-year-old pitching prospect Zach Britton has had an excellent season. He has pitched well at the two highest levels of the minors and could be a fixture at some point in the future in the Orioles rotation.

That future could come as early as the next week or two as Britton knows the O's have considered him for a September callup.

For now, he just waits to see whether his final starts of the 2010 season will be in Norfolk or Baltimore.

"This is an opportunity I thought about back in high school. The fact I may have a chance to pitch in the Major Leagues is a dream come true. That's what it is.

"This year it feels like the season has flown by. I hope I get the opportunity, but I know that if I keep pitching well, that door is going to open.

"But I am getting close to fulfilling a childhood dream. It's not just me, but my parents as well. They've put so much time and effort into my career and my education as well. Being this close is a rewarding feeling," Britton said.

The O's have not made a final decision yet whether or not they will call him up to pitch in September. For now, his next start is expected to come at Triple-A.

Britton was rated by Baseball America as the 10th best prospect in baseball in their mid-season report. He's lived up to the hype over his last 17 starts between Bowie and Norfolk with a mark of 8-3, 2.12 in that stretch.

Britton went 7-3, 2.48 in 15 games at Double-A and has pitched well since his move to Triple-A, going 3-3, 3.09 in ten Norfolk starts.

"It was exciting to get a level closer to the big leagues. It's been a good experience. I know earlier in the season I was hoping to go from Bowie to Baltimore, but this is an appropriate stop on the way.

"This will do me a lot of good. Like my last two starts vs. Durham, there is no better team you can face right now. They have the best record in all of Triple-A. You are better off facing the best right now to get ready for the big leagues."

In 12 innings, Britton gave up nine hits and four runs in those last two starts vs. a Durham team that has the best record in the International League at 83-49.

Britton has pitched 142 1/3 innings so far this season after throwing 140 last year with Frederick and a career-high 147 two years ago with Delmarva.

"I feel strong. I was talking to (Tides pitching coach) Mike Griffin before this last start and we were talking about last year where I kind of had a dead arm period at the end of the year," Britton said.

"But I feel strong. My velocity is not for me so much an indicator of whether I am getting tired, because I pretty much always maintain the same velocity. But it's the sharpness on my pitches. That's still there. Even late into the games, the stuffs been sharp and that's a good sign."

So adding more innings at this point should not be a problem, Britton said.

"Not at all (a problem to throw 20 or 30 more), I feel really good. My goal is hopefully get to the big leagues and be a 200-inning pitcher. I know there are baby steps along the way, but the more I throw this year, the closer I get to that goal."

Britton should have about four or five starts left for this year and now he waits to see if he'll make any of them for the Orioles in Baltimore.

"I feel like I've given myself a good opportunity to get to Baltimore this year or next year."

If you missed two stories we reported on last night, here is an update on Manny Machado.

Here is a story on the O's signing of Glynn Davis.

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