Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Toronto on Sunday morning that closer Zach Britton is dealing with soreness in his left forearm and that he will be placed on the 10-day disabled list.
Britton, who felt the soreness while throwing a curveball Friday, will be replaced on the 25-man roster by reliever Stefan Crichton, who was sent down Saturday to make room for Alec Asher.
So, what does this mean?
Well, we can start with the apocalyptic, nightmarish scenario first. Forearm injuries are always scary because they can be a precursor to elbow injuries. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that a guy has a strained forearm only find out later that, ultimately, his elbow ligament has been compromised. And we all know how scary that path can be. As a result, I never downplay any injury, especially one that sends a player to the disabled list.
OK, now breathe.
Right now, this isn’t being called a strain. Just soreness. And Showalter told MASNsports.com and The Baltimore Sun that it was a possibility Britton could return in 10 days, though he added that it’s premature to know if that will be the case.
One thing to remember is that the new 10-day disabled list – it switched from 15 days to 10 as part of the new collective bargaining agreement signed in the offseason – makes this kind of precautionary move possible. Maybe last year, Britton would have sat idle for 5 days or so to see if the rest made it better. Now, there is a mechanism in place to sideline a player officially without losing him for more than two weeks.
Also, remember that the Orioles’ medical staff and Showalter have a reputation for being conservative with any type of potential injury. They are the kings at catching tweaks early, before they snowball. And being cautious usually serves the team well.
Here’s the other thing: We all know how important Britton is to this team in the long run. But, for now, the Orioles are exceptionally well-equipped to handle a brief loss of their All-Star closer.
Last week, I was talking to reliever Darren O’Day and he told me he thought Brad Brach would be a closer on most other teams. That Brach has that kind of stuff and demeanor. So, Brach likely will move into that role with Britton absent. And O’Day likely will pitch more in the eighth than in the seventh, and could get some save opportunities if Brach is unavailable. Donnie Hart and Mychal Givens also likely will slot up.
I’m not suggesting that Britton’s presence – even for 10 days – won’t be missed. But the Orioles’ bullpen is so deep that it should be able to continue to be effective even without its anchor. For a short time, anyway.
Losing Britton for an extended period would be an obvious blow. But let’s not get too worried about that yet.
This is concerning, as any injury to a star would be. It’s worth monitoring closely. But it’s also too early in the process to think the ninth-inning sky is falling.