SARASOTA, Fla. - This must be a strange time for some of the Orioles' young pitchers. They are battling hard to win the fifth starter's job and they are battling against some of their best friends. Players they have known since their minor league days.
Zach Britton understands that it's a weird dynamic. He is trying to put his best foot (or is that arm) forward here and it might mean he or one of his best friends has to start the year in the minors.
"We are good friends," Britton said this morning in the O's clubhouse. "I think we all understand we have the ability to be very successful at the big leagues, we just might not have shown it yet for a consistent period of time. A lot of us are in the same boat. We are not really talking about it. Me and Brian (Matusz) and Jake (Arrieta), that is probably who I am closest with, we're just trying to support each other.
"You just worry about what you can control. With spring training it's so tough because you want to go out and pitch well and put up good numbers, but, being around for a while now you realize the numbers in spring training, they don't really translate as well over the course of spring training.
"You want to make sure you are getting people out right now the way you would during the season, not kind of using the advantage of spring training where sometimes the hitters are a little bit behind. You need to focus on, during the season is this going to work for me? My main goal right now is making sure what I am doing here will benefit me during the season."
Britton has an ERA of 2.08 over four spring outings and pitched 3 2/3 innings of his shutout ball against Boston in his last game.
"Buck (Showalter) and Rick (Adair) are looking for something other than just stats," Britton said. "For me one of the big keys is showing I'm healthy again and that my stuff is getting back to where it was a couple of years ago. That was a huge step for me."
Britton does feel 100 percent now after starting last season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. He went 5-3 with a 5.07 ERA last season for the Orioles.
Along those lines of spending spring working on what you are going to need in the season, Britton has had a specific game plan for this camp.
"Don't give away some secrets, but for me it's working on my four-seam fastball," he said. "I command the four-seamer better than my sinker. It doesn't move as much. We are going to try to use that to my advantage, pound the strike zone with the four-seamer and then show the sinker. Think that will open up the game plan for me a lot better."