Two weeks after AL Wild Card loss, Zach Britton on not pitching: 'I trust Buck' -

Dan Connolly

Two weeks after AL Wild Card loss, Zach Britton on not pitching: ‘I trust Buck’

Shortly after Orioles closer Zach Britton inadvertently was embroiled in controversy when he didn’t pitch in the club’s loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card game October 4, he and his wife sat down to view an American League Division Series game.

“I turned on the TV a couple days later to watch one of the playoff games and the first thing I hear about is how I didn’t get to pitch in that (Wild Card) game. It was still this huge deal,” Britton said during a phone interview with on Monday. “It was the talk of that game. And my wife and I, we just decided not to watch. Because I didn’t want to hear about it.”

It’s now been two weeks since Orioles manager Buck Showalter used seven pitchers – but not Britton — in an eventual 5-2, 11-inning loss at the Rogers Centre that ended the club’s season.

Britton said he’s had numerous requests for interviews since then, but he’s been awfully busy. His son turned 2 earlier this month and then the family moved from Southern California to a new home in Austin, Texas last week. His wife, Courtney, is due next month with the couple’s first daughter.

So, Britton says with a chuckle, he hasn’t given many second thoughts to not pitching in the club’s final game of 2016. He hasn’t had time.

“Exactly. There are so many other things going on. And it was never a situation where I was going to really overthink it anyway,” he said. “I trust Buck. He has always done things to put me into a situation that I could be successful. And he’s always made good decisions. He was a huge reason why our team got as far as it did.”

Britton said he has not talked to Showalter since the season ended, but didn’t expect that he would this early in the offseason.

“I never thought I needed to. I didn’t realize, even after the game, that it was this big of a deal. Obviously now, just with social media, I’ve been getting blown up on it about every single day. There are the jokes about it and stuff like that,” Britton said. “After a while, I don’t really get the (focus) about it. I mean, you’ve got to score more runs than the other team. There are only so many things that you can do as a manager to make that game turn in your favor. It’s not like you can go out there and hit for the guys or pitch for your players.”

Britton, who was a perfect 47-for-47 in save chances and is considered a frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award this year, warmed up three times in the Orioles’ final game, but never entered. Although Showalter never fully detailed his decision, basically it was because the Orioles didn’t have a lead after the fifth inning and, on the road, Showalter prefers to use his closer when his club is leading.


It’s a philosophy that has been skewered this postseason, especially since several playoff teams have used their traditional closers in non-traditional roles, and the moves have paid off.

But Britton said he wasn’t surprised at all by Showalter’s decision to wait for a lead. It’s how he is usually used. It’s what the game plan was. And he trusted the rest of the bullpen to do its job, including enigmatic starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who served up the game-winning homer to Edwin Encarnacion.

“I knew being on the road, I was kind of biding my time to hopefully be in a situation where I was one of the last two guys down there. That’s just kind of the way it’s worked out the whole season. So it wasn’t surprising to me at all,” Britton said. “Ubaldo had been throwing well so … when the phone rang and they told him he was going into the game, it wasn’t something where I was like, ‘Oh, wow.’ It was just, ‘Ubaldo’s been throwing great.’ He deserved to be on the roster. He has pitched well recently there, and I expected him to at least give us a good inning and then possibly me coming in right after him.”

Before the game, Britton was told by bullpen coach Dom Chiti to prepare to pitch multiple innings – besides the traditional ninth — if the Orioles were ahead.

“If we had a lead in the seventh and it was a one- or two-run lead, my impression was, ‘Hey, be ready, we’ve got that lead in the seventh, maybe a situation comes up that you might throw two innings or two-and-a-third or one-and-change.’ That was my impression. It wasn’t something that they told me, ‘Hey, if the game is tied, you’re gonna go two innings.’ It was, ‘If we have the lead and the seventh inning comes up, be ready to go.’”

Britton said he was completely healthy and felt great while warming in the bullpen. He just didn’t get the call to pitch because of the way Showalter ran the game. But he’s not going to second guess Showalter, the manager who made him a closer in 2014. And any frustration he showed after the game, he said, was directed more at the result than the decision.

“It’s frustrating because I wanted to help the team. It’s not frustrating because Buck didn’t pitch me. It’s frustrating that the circumstances never came up to where it was a good spot for me — I guess, in Buck’s eyes — for me to come into the game,” Britton said. “If we were to have won the game and I didn’t pitch, it’s not like I would have cared … I wasn’t mad at Buck for not pitching me. I was just mad that we weren’t able to score more runs than they did.”

Britton said he’s not going to let it taint the tremendous season he had, either – his 0.54 ERA was the lowest in history for anyone with at least 60 innings pitched in a season.

“You don’t want it to overshadow the year that you had at all,” he said. “People were kind of taking my side on things and I don’t even know if there’s a side to take in this whole deal. I think if you look at Buck as a manager, he’s obviously one of the best guys in the game. And when it comes to bullpen management, over the course of a season, I don’t know if anybody does it better than he does.

“To me this isn’t a blemish, it’s just that the game happened and you make decisions. … Everything is cool when everything is working out your way. But as soon as one thing doesn’t go your way, everyone is (critical). It was the perfect time because it was the Wild Card game, national TV, it’s the only thing that’s on.

“So it just seems like people always want to rip you if they can.”



  1. jan417

    October 18, 2016 at 7:57 am

    His last comment in the article perfectly describes so many sports “fans,” sadly.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 18, 2016 at 8:47 am

      Getting ripped by the fans goes with the job. Especially when you make a call of not using your best pitcher.

    • Bancells Moustache

      October 18, 2016 at 9:06 am

      Jan, while it may seem uncouth, probably the number 1 reason professional sports are so popular in this country is exactly what you are lamenting; the illusion of being in charge. A guy spends all day being told what to do by the boss, by government authorities, by his wife

      • Bancells Moustache

        October 18, 2016 at 9:14 am

        (guilty as charged on the wife) but when he flips on an Orioles, or Ravens game, he can pretend, because he’s paid a few bucks for some tickets or a jersey, that he has authority over that team. Of course this is all nonsense. Fans can howl and moan all they want. Teams are private enterprises which handle everything internally as all businesses do. Still, the fact that this illusion is there is arguably the most important factor in pro sports being such a success.

      • Dan Connolly

        October 18, 2016 at 9:14 am

        But I think the point is people are just looking for that moment to pounce. I don’t think that’s just sports; that’s life these days, whatever arena.

        • JCO

          October 18, 2016 at 9:53 am

          It really seems to be the case in sports. I read things online and hear people talk in person and it often feels like the person is rooting to be miserable and have something to complain about instead of team success. I’ve noticed that article comment sections and blogs are much, much more active after a loss than a win. I get calling a team on mistakes but there almost seems to be a weird sort of glee in some posts after a bad loss.

          Another aspect of life that’s reflected in sports is this trend to think that you know more than people with expertise and/or experience. No offense to anyone, but I’d rather have a guy with pro baseball experience run the team than Tom from Towson on sports talk or BalmerOsguy on a blog. Except maybe Boog Robinson Robinson who has the best username ever 😉

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            October 18, 2016 at 10:13 am

            Ah Shucks JCO … I just wish I had your avatar picture! Awesome, I’ve always loved that bird with the bat cartoon! Takes me back to the 70s …

          • Bancells Moustache

            October 18, 2016 at 11:13 am

            I’m picking up what your putting down JCO, but I think the negative comments just tend to stick out more. I mean, if message boards and talk radio were nothing but people saying “I like out guys” it would be pretty b

          • Bancells Moustache

            October 18, 2016 at 11:22 am

            boring (ugh, that’s twice. Dan, We really need an “edit” option)

            Like I said, it’s part of why people watch. The illusion of being a decision maker. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, and it’s nothing new. You can rest assured some crank was calling for Ned Hanlon’s job when the Orioles lost the Temple Cup in 1895. It’s part of the game and always has been. And of course it’s nonsense. People love to trash Chris Davis as an overpaid underachiever online and on talk radio. Are those people saying that if they are standing in front of the 6’3″, 250 lbs of lean muscle that is the Orioles first baseman? Don’t bet on it.

          • Steve Cockey

            October 18, 2016 at 2:22 pm

            Great suggestion, Richie – your wish has been granted. You can now edit any comment from a desktop or laptop computer for a 5-minute period after posting it. Let us know if this isn’t working for you.

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            October 18, 2016 at 1:22 pm

            You’re telling me the O’s LOST that cup?

          • Bancells Moustache

            October 18, 2016 at 2:53 pm

            Nice. ‘Temple of Doom’ moment. This is Steve Cockey, dressed as a waiter pointing a pistol at Lao Che and me, dressed as Indiana Jones in a Tux. “Good service here”.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 18, 2016 at 10:21 am

      JCO: what’s made this site so much fun for me so far is that the comments here are always well thought-out. And personalities of the posters have come to light in a great way, not an antagonistic way. We don’t have to agree on anything. But doing it rationally and smartly is so appreciated. And rare for message boards. It’s been a pleasure.

  2. 5brooks5

    October 18, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Great interview! Great content! That’s what makes this site so special. Keep up the good work, well done.

  3. eddienj

    October 18, 2016 at 9:20 am

    I just love this article. Very informative. Thanks.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 18, 2016 at 9:41 am

      Thanks for coming to the site.

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 18, 2016 at 10:25 am

    I know I’m off topic with this, but JCO’s awesome avatar pic reminded me of something.

    Has anyone besides myself ever noticed that is was the exact same year that the team went away from the ornithologically correct bird on their hat, that the team’s what was it(?), 15 year losing streak ended? This is an example of ‘good juju’.

    I’m telling y’all that there are forces in the baseball universe that we just don’t understand.

    And just to get back on topic, HECK WE ALL TRUST BUCK!!

    • Bancells Moustache

      October 18, 2016 at 11:35 am

      Definitely glad they ditched the Ornithologically correct bird, and I’ll do you one better. After seeing those gorgeous 1966 throwback uniforms in HD for the first time, not just in grainy old photos, why on Earth did they stop wearing them in the first place? Best looking baseball uniform I’ve ever seen.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 18, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      I actually wrote about that in my book. Really a strange coincidence. Or Boog juju.

  5. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 18, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    Go Sox!

    Oooops…I meant Go O’s!!!

    Hey this edit thingy works! Thanks Steve, but you cold have saaved me an untire summerz worth of embarraxxing typos end mispelins if it hud bean dun earlier in the yeer. Better laat than never … unless you’re the closer for the O’s!!!!

    • Steve Cockey

      October 18, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      I take full responsibility for not having this sooner, Boog. Or maybe we should blame ‘Stache for not suggesting it earlier.

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