The Orioles’ 4-2 victory against the Chicago White Sox Friday night was tempered by news after the game that All Star closer Zach Britton is dealing with a recurrence of the left forearm strain that kept him on the shelf for a chunk of April.
He will land on the disabled list and be out a few weeks to allow the inflammation to fully subside and the strained muscle to completely heal, according to an industry source. But there is no structural damage to the forearm or elbow ligaments, simply a continuation of the muscle strain.
That, in itself, should be a huge relief for the Orioles and their star left-hander.
Britton was not in the bullpen during Friday’s game, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter revealed that Britton had left for a 7 p.m. MRI on his throwing arm.
“There’s some talk about the next step to take with him. He woke up this morning, felt it, felt some discomfort this morning. I guess we call it the night when we get back at 4 (a.m.),” Showalter said. “It got a little better as the day went on, but we’re trying to decide what our next step is.”
The sense is that Britton did not allow enough time for the strain to heal properly in his haste to return to the team, but after resting it over the next couple weeks, it shouldn’t be a lingering issue.
Britton could seek a second examination outside of the organization — potentially visiting Los Angeles to see renowned sports medicine specialist/orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache, whom Britton’s agent, Scott Boras, often recommends for his clients. ElAttrache has worked with Oriole players before, including performing knee surgeries on Manny Machado in 2013 and 2014.
Britton was on the disabled list from April 16 to until Tuesday, when he pitched a scoreless inning in Boston, allowing a hit and a walk. He threw another scoreless inning Thursday, but when he dealt with discomfort Friday morning, the medical team decided to send him for a MRI.
“How we proceed will probably be derived from those findings. Just compare it with the one he just took,” Showalter said. “Same (initial diagnosis), forearm strain, I think. That’s what I was told. I talked with Zach today and Dr. Jacobs and Richie (Bancells) and Roger (McDowell) and (we’re) just trying to gather all the information and decide which direction to go.”
When Britton is placed on the DL, the Orioles will be able to replace him with a pitcher who had been sent down within the last 10 days, such as Paul Fry, Logan Verrett, Mike Wright, Alec Asher or Vidal Nuno, among others. The Orioles cannot promote any of the above-mentioned pitchers Saturday unless they are replacing an injured player.
The Orioles also likely will demote Gabriel Ynoa, who pitched six splendid innings in relief of Wade Miley on Friday, to Triple-A by Saturday. Although Showalter said, “We’ll see,” when asked if Ynoa could be a candidate for the 10-day DL. The right-hander was dealing with cramps in his leg toward the end of his outing, but said after the game he felt fine.
With Britton headed back to the DL, Brad Brach will continue getting the majority of save opportunities. He has converted six of seven in Britton’s absence.
The Orioles will also have to make another roster move by Sunday, when Chris Tillman (shoulder) comes off the disabled list to make his season debut. Showalter said Tillman’s side session went well Friday, and he’s on schedule to start in the series finale against the White Sox.