Showalter pregame on Britton, O’Day and OF assists (game update)

CHICAGO - Orioles manager Buck Showalter was a keenly interested observer today when closer Zach Britton threw 20 pitches in a one-inning simulated game at Gauranteed Rate Field this afternoon.

The skipper liked what he saw.

“Went real well,” Showalter said. “That was as good as I’ve seen him. If you didn’t know better, you’d think he was ready to go.”

britton-pitch-white-sidebar.jpgBritton is scheduled to throw a two-inning sim game on Saturday. That would be in Florida at extended spring training, unless there is a weather issue, then it would happen indoors at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg where the Orioles play this weekend. Then Britton will begin a rehab assignment in the minors May 30 at Triple-A Norfolk.

Most years in spring training, relievers throw between five and 10 innings so Britton may not need many games before he can rejoin the Orioles.

“In a perfect world,” Showalter said. “Yeah, you know Zach is really going through a February, March spring training. But he feels good moving around. We’ve done the PFPs (pitcher fielding practice). Now it is more about pitching and is not something that is constantly on his mind.

“He’s throwing his breaking ball, he’s covering first. He’s fielding his position. That was a pretty serious injury. There is a history on what happens if you go too fast. Nobody knows better than Zach that he is just not going to throw his glove out there and be the guy that saved 50 games in a row. It’s going to be a challenge. I’m looking forward to getting him and Darren (O’Day) back.”

Speaking of O’Day, he was scheduled to do some light throwing today and then have another bullpen session tomorrow. Then the Orioles will asses where they are with O’Day. He’s been on the DL retroactive to May 6 with a hyperextended right elbow.

Showalter had some props today for right-hander Brad Brach, who picked up his seventh save in eight chances last night. He struck out the side in the ninth against the White Sox, but also allowed a single and two walks, one intentional to Jose Abreu that loaded the bases.

Brach has not allowed an earned run over his last 6 1/3 innings over six games. That has lowered his ERA from 5.84 to 3.79.

“You can just tell with his body language and I don’t want to say confidence,” Showalter said “Brad has never been a guy that ever took something for granted. He pitches every day like it’s his first outing in the big leagues. He performed at a pretty high level of consistency for a long time here with the Orioles. It’s not like he’s sneaking up on anybody. Everybody knows what he is trying to do.”

Meanwhile, Orioles left fielder Trey Mancini last night joined Don Buford as the only O’s outfielders with two outfield assists in one inning as Mancini got two in the fifth inning. Buford got two in the first inning on June 25, 1970 at Boston.

“You know you get two assists in an inning, you actually wonder if there is a scouting report that your arm is not very good or something,” Mancini said this afternoon. “That crosses my mind. But I don’t think that is the case. I think my arm is better than people think and hopefully people try to run on me.”

Showalter said he agrees that Mancini’s arm is better than he gets credit for.

“Without a doubt. It is because the arm swing is a little unconventional,” Showalter said. “That is one of the reasons that, watching him throw at first base, I had concerns he could do it (move from first to the outfield). Kirb (Wayne Kirby) and Brady (Anderson) told me he could do it. That’s good enough for me. But I still had to be convinced. It looks like a lot of runners still have to be convinced.”

O’s get early lead: The Orioles took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second. Mark Trumbo’s RBI double, with an exit velocity of 113.4 mph, made it 1-0. Batting next, a Jace Peterson RBI groundout made it 2-0. In the bottom of the inning, Kevin Gausman pitched out of a second and third, one-out jam.

Gausman through five: He’s been strong tonight, holding Chicago scoreless on six hits through five innings. Gausman is at 84 pitches and has a season-high 19 swings and misses, including on 15 of his 34 split-finger fastballs. The White Sox are 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Givens in for Gausman: Gausman had quite the night. His final line was 6 1/3 scoreless innings allowing nine hits with one walk and a career-high matching 10 strikeouts. He got 25 swings and misses (four better than previous career high) on 106 pitches and his fastball averaged 94.4 mph. He was replaced by Mychal Givens with one out in the seventh. The O’s are still ahead 2-0 in the eighth.

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