ABERDEEN — Orioles closer Zach Britton faced opposing hitters for the first time since May 4, throwing a scoreless inning Tuesday for the Short-A Aberdeen IronBirds at Ripken Stadium.
Britton, who was placed on the disabled list May 6 for a second time this season due to a strained left forearm, began his injury rehabilitation assignment with a one-inning start against the Hudson Valley Renegades, a Tampa Bay Rays’ affiliate.
“I actually felt pretty good,” said the lefty, who faced three right-handers. “Surprisingly, I had a little bit of adrenaline going, which was nice to get back into some competition. Now, it’s just about getting the command a little bit better as I go up the levels and getting back to Baltimore.”
Britton struck out Hudson Valley’s leadoff man, Vidal Brujan, on five pitches before issuing a 3-2 walk to Emilio Gustave. Doing what he does best – one pitch later – Britton induced a ground ball. Zac Law hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
“Any level ground ball is a plus,” said Britton, who threw 12 pitches total, six for strikes. “That just shows the action is good.”
Britton told reporters that every pitch he threw was a sinker — between 93-95 mph – but this outing was more about pitching off the mound in a live situation.
“Today was really about getting out (there), getting the juices flowing a little bit and just competing, so I got over the hurdle,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Orioles moved the 29-year-old Britton from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day DL, meaning he won’t be eligible to return to the Orioles until July 4. It was a procedural move so the team could create a 40-man roster spot for outfielder Craig Gentry. Britton said he received a text from Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette about the decision, and said he’s not too worried about it.
“They felt like that was the best thing and the two extra days, possibly three, that I’m going to spend on the DL now after that move might not be the worst thing,” said Britton, who admits he may have rushed back from the injury earlier this year. “I just want to get back and (be) healthy and help the team.”
Britton expects his next step will be pitching one inning for Delmarva, the Orioles’ Low-A affiliate, on Thursday in Salisbury.