I have heard some fans say they feel that one reason some of the Orioles’ young pitchers have struggled this year is that they were rushed to the major leagues.
Some might feel that way about Zach Britton, who began this year in the majors after making just 12 starts and pitching 66 1/3 innings last season for Triple-A Norfolk after moving up from Double-A Bowie.
I don’t think Britton was rushed. He pitched so well at both Bowie and Norfolk last year that everyone in baseball knew he was on the cusp of the majors and it was just a matter of time.
Then, in his first nine major league starts this year, Britton went 5-2 with an ERA of 2.14 and seven quality starts. He was being mentioned as a Rookie of the Year candidate.
Since then, Britton is 1-5 with an ERA of 6.55 over his last nine starts with just three quality starts.
But if you look closer, Britton’s ERA was a more than respectable 3.19 after 15 starts. But over his last three games, including that first-inning exit in Boston, he allowed 14 earned runs in just 12 1/3.
His batting average against this year was .248 before those last three starts and is .264 now.
To me, the past three starts - or for that matter, those last nine - don’t prove that Britton was rushed to the majors.
I think it just shows how hard it is to pitch at this level and that he was never going to go all year with an ERA in the 2.14 range. Hitters learned more about him and now Britton has to prove he can adjust and adapt to that. I sure think he can.
Sometimes a club can finish off a player’s development at the major league level. I see Britton ready for the majors and he can learn what he needs to from this point forward better with the Orioles than with Norfolk or Bowie.
He needs to learn to make adjustments and how to handle struggles in the major leagues. Going to the minors and pitching great for the next 10 starts, which he could easily do, would not help him as much.
The last few weeks at Bowie provided him a nice break away from big league pressure and a chance to smooth out his mechanics and work on some things with the pitching coach that has worked with Britton more than any other, Bowie’s Kennie Streenstra.
By the way, here is what Steenstra said about working with Britton while he was at Bowie:
“Just really trying to get him comfortable on his mechanics again. They had been trying some different things with his hand position and where he is putting his feet on the rubber, but mostly I think it was more just a mental break and letting him get his feet back under him,” Steenstra said.
“Nobody is ever happy to be sent down. They may say all the right things to you guys. He’s handled it very well since he’s been here. He’s gotten his work in and treated the guys well here.”
Not to go all James Earl Jones on you, but Britton was good before and he will be again.
He’s ready for the majors right now. He surely will still have some struggles to overcome this season, perhaps starting with his outing at Yankee Stadium tonight.
But Britton should be pitching now for Baltimore, not Bowie - there is very little doubt in my mind about that.