Zach Britton will be back on a major league mound tonight when the Orioles play at Minnesota. He'll be looking to regain the form that saw him win five of his first six Orioles starts and had him being mentioned as an early Rookie of the Year candidate.
On May 18, Britton pitched seven shutout against the New York Yankees and, at the end of that night, had an ERA of 2.14 through nine big league starts and a batting average against of .210.
Who knew then that down the road he would face back-to-back first-inning exits, a trip to the minors and a stint on the disabled list?
We didn't know then he would make starts this year at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.
No one could have predicted then that he would go through a three-start stretch where he lasted just 6 1/3 innings, giving up 25 hits and 23 runs (17 earned). His ERA jumped from 3.47 to 4.66.
When he throws his first pitch tonight, Britton's mindset and confidence level will probably be every bit as important as his sinking fastball.
For a pitcher who had it all going his way early in the year, and was living up to his top prospect status, to be going through this now has to be somewhat overwhelming.
The young starters like Britton, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta heard often about how they were the future. Then they struggled and a lot of things fell apart on this team.
It must have a pitcher like Britton suddenly questioning how good he really is and can be. How could a young man's confidence not take a hit?
Somehow, he, and the others, have to overcome all that and get back to getting outs and throwing strikes and looking like the young talents they are.
I keep thinking, in Britton's case, maybe one real good start would be enough for him to turn the corner. Maybe tonight is the night for that.
Britton through three: Zach Britton has allowed three hits and one run through three innings as the Orioles and Twins are tied, 1-1. Britton was sharp in the first two frames, pitching shutout ball, but had to work hard to strand the bases loaded, allowing just one run in the third.
With one out, he gave up a single and double to put runners on second and third. He got a Joe Mauer RBI groundout that tied the game, but then walked the next two hitters to load the bases. But he got Jim Thome to line to left and end that threat.
Britton has thrown 67 pitches so far.