Orioles lefty Zach Britton has found his sinker again. He is pounding two-seam fastballs down in the zone and throwing them at a greater velocity. He is getting very impressive results to start this season.
Just when some were doubting they’d see Britton pitch well again in the big leagues, he’s doing it.
Over five games, Britton is 2-0 with an ERA of 0.00. He has given up just two hits over 8 1/3 scoreless innings. He leads American League relievers with an .080 batting average against (min. 0.5 IP per team games).
So why is he better this year?
Britton will tell you there is not one reason, but many. He is healthy, he had a great offseason of workouts, he has found a consistent arm slot pitching exclusively from the stretch and he has worked very well with new pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti.
The foundation for a good season was built over the winter. Britton threw weighted baseballs to build arm strength. Some of the balls are as heavy as two pounds, while a major league baseball weighs five ounces.
“I was introduced to it my junior year of high school,” Britton said. “Used it from my junior year to my senior year and gained about three to four miles per hour on my velocity.
“I did it all through the minors. When I got hurt I stopped it. I tried it, but it made my arm feel worse. This offseason I used them. Started working out with Brady (Anderson) and I felt right away there was a difference where my arm was physically.
“For me it’s an offseason strengthening thing. Guys use it for different things. I don’t use it in season, we do enough throwing then.
“There are different drills, five or six, with each ball that I do and I introduced Miguel (Gonzalez) to it this offseason as well. It’s just about getting your arm speed up and arm strength. Arm speed for me is crucial.”
Britton’s velocity is up from last year. His average fastball was 91.4 mph then and is 93.9 mph so far in 2014. Britton’s mechanics are most consistent, he feels, pitching out of the stretch right now. He is throwing that way even if he comes into a game with no one on base.
“I think it’s (the increased velocity) the sum of everything,” he said. “A cleaner delivery with the help of Dave and Dom. Just been throwing out of the stretch. If I stay in the bullpen the whole year I’m sure we’ll talk about getting back to the windup eventually.
“It was something they felt, just make it simple for me coming out of the pen. But I think, physically where I am at, adding the weighted balls, cleaning up my delivery, better arm slot. All that stuff equals better and more consistent velocity.”
Britton also has clicked with the new pitching coaches. They take a relaxed, easy-going approach and it’s working for Britton.
“They just make you feel easy,” Britton said. “I feel calm around them. They have a calming feeling to them. Dave, he’s a man of few words, but when he speaks, you listen. He has a ton of knowledge. With Dom, he’s a great developer, great teacher. Keeps it simple and that can be the hardest thing up here.”