With rotation close to set, Zach Britton talks about a possible bullpen role

SARASOTA, Fla. - Zach Britton can do the math. The Orioles have five spots in their starting rotation and right now he doesn’t figure to get one. But he wants to make the team, of course, and if it is as a reliever, that is fine with him.

He is out of options, but he certainly doesn’t want to be out of a job with the organization that drafted him in the third round in 2006.

Britton is having a good camp, showing some mid-90s velocity at times. He pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning at Ed Smith Stadium Wednesday against the Phillies, getting two strikeouts and a groundout on just seven pitches.

He has gone two, two, two and one inning in his four games so far, allowing just five hits and one run with two walks and seven strikeouts.

“I think when you get this late in camp, you can look and see pretty much what the starting five will be,” Britton said this morning. “You’re still competing for the spot, just in case something does happen, but I want to make sure I’m ready to compete out of the bullpen.”

Does he like pitching out of ‘pen?

“I think I am still undecided on it. It’s a new experience and so far, so good,” he said. “Just trying to see how my body reacts to throwing so close together. As a starter, you get your four days in between. Making sure I’m doing the little things between appearances to keep my arm healthy.”

Britton would certainly need to get used to pitching in a bullpen role after making 137 of 139 minor league appearances and 46 of 48 in the majors as a starting pitcher.

“It’s different, but we have a good group of guys,” he said. “Like Tommy (Hunter), for example. He’s been a starter his whole career and last year was his first full year in the ‘pen. Just talking to those guys and it’s really just about focusing how the starter is doing, how things are going in the game and knowing what you need to do down in the bullpen to get ready. You have to get loose quicker and you learn about your body, what you need and don’t need.

“The results are great (in games this spring), but it’s spring training, so you take it with a grain of salt. For me, I look at the quality of the pitches. Am I getting groundballs and swings and misses on my sinker? Those are what I’m looking for and also if I’m commanding the ball, and so far those things have been good.”

Britton, who went 2-3 with a 4.95 ERA for the Orioles last season, knows almost any player out of options could wind up the subject of trade rumors as opening day gets closer.

“I honestly haven’t heard anything,” he said. “I’ve been staying away from all that stuff this year and just focusing on having a good spring and making this team. So far things are going great and I hope to stay here, but that stuff is out of my control.”

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