As Zach Britton moves closer to his 2018 debut with the Orioles, his removal from the disabled list anticipated for June 15, the curiosity is how manager Buck Showalter will use him right out of the gate.
Should he ease Britton back into the ninth inning rather than call upon the left-hander right away to record the last three outs and protect a slim lead? Is it wiser to give him, say, the sixth or seventh inning in those initial appearances?
It’s a question that Showalter has posed to the media on a few occasions, challenging us to state an argument while obviously knowing how he’s going to handle the situation no matter the feedback.
With the team buried deep in last place, where Britton pitches probably won’t bring much angst. It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme, though winning remains a priority. But what’s best for him?
I’d just run him out there in his old role. Why not? No one’s feelings will be hurt. Brad Brach won’t demand a trade.
Britton was used in the eighth inning upon his return last year from a forearm strain, but the Orioles were in Boston and losing 5-2. He pitched the ninth two days later with the Orioles ahead 8-3 and returned to the disabled list.
His next appearance on July 5 in Milwaukee came in the seventh inning in a 4-0 loss to the Brewers. His next save didn’t come until July 23 in a 9-7 win over the Astros.
The Orioles were contending. They aren’t in the same position this year, if that factors into the decision.
Scouts will want to watch Britton in high-leverage situations, though I find it amusing because outs are outs. Whether he’s getting them in the fifth or 10th. His health and the quality of his pitches are all that matters. But yeah, they’ll want to see him in save situations.
Darren O’Day walked three batters in two-thirds of an inning in first rehab game with Single-A Frederick, and he struck out the side last night in the seventh inning. He also hit a batter, but let’s focus on the three strikeouts.
O’Day is expected to be activated over the weekend while the Orioles are in Toronto. Someone break the news to him that Jose Bautista is gone.
The composition of the bullpen with Britton and O’Day becomes an interesting topic again. The Orioles might choose to go with a short bench, at least initially, because they still have Rule 5 pick Pedro Araujo. Otherwise, they might have to option Tanner Scott despite what he offers as a power arm and how much he deserves to stay.
Brach hadn’t allowed an earned run in his last 11 appearances before last night, but the bases weren’t kept clean. He played with fire and was burned by the Blue Jays, who scored three runs off him to wipe out a 4-1 deficit.
I made the assumption yesterday morning that Brach wouldn’t be available after collecting saves in back-to-back games against the Mets at Citi Field, but he pitched again last night and retired only one batter.
Meanwhile, has anyone bothered to notice that Mike Wright Jr.’s scoreless streak is up to six appearances?
Wright hasn’t allowed a run since Game 2 of the May 12 doubleheader against the Rays. He’s given up eight hits and walked six batters in nine innings, but no one has crossed the plate. He’s struck out eight and his velocity is climbing.
Showalter is picking his spots to use Wright, as evidenced by the six appearances in almost a month and in the final inning of games that ended 17-1 and 11-1. But he’s been better and the ERA is down to 6.37.