Posted on July 5, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
After an extended absence, the Baltimore Orioles finally have their closer back. The Orioles activated Zach Britton from the DL on Wednesday. Britton missed two months with a forearm strain. He also missed time in April with a forearm strain, limiting him to just eight appearances this season. However, the Orioles are hoping that he’s healthy and ready to make an impact for them the second half of the season.
Over the past two weeks, Britton has made seven appearances at various levels of the minor leagues. He’s allowed just one run in seven innings, striking out eight in that time. The two-time all-star now says that he’s ready and anxious to return.
“Physically-wise, I mean, and mentally, I’m just ready to get back with the team,” says Britton. “I think I’ll get sharper, obviously, as the innings get under my belt more. I threw seven down here, which was good, but half of those were mostly making sure everything felt good physically, so now I’m in the mode of just kind of attacking hitters and making good pitches, so that will continue when I get back with the team. Mentally, I think I’ve been ready for a little while now to get back.”
While Britton was on the DL, Brad Brach took over closing duties for the Orioles. On the season, Brach has accumulated 15 saves and posted a 2.72 ERA. With Britton back to resume the role of closer, Brach can return to the role of setup man. Darren O’Day, Mychal Givens, Donnie Hart, and Richard Bleier are also having strong seasons pitching in relief, adding depth to Baltimore’s bullpen.
Baltimore’s starting rotation has the highest ERA in the American League this season. The team’s bullpen, meanwhile, has not been quite as dominant as it was a year ago. But with Britton back from the DL, the Orioles may have a strong enough bullpen to compensate for a lackluster starting staff. Britton’s return could end up being a catalyst for the Orioles. In his five appearances this year, Britton has allowed one run over nine innings.
“I’ve been ready to get back with Darren and Brad, Givens, Donnie, all those guys. I think it’s going to help everybody. One guy doesn’t turn around the season, I don’t think, but we can help,” says Britton. “When you’re around the same guys for all those years we’ve been together, sometimes it’s nice to get everybody back together who you expected to be on the team, maybe give them a little boost. I’m not sure, but I’m just excited about getting back in the pen and help out those guys.”
Now that Britton is back, Orioles manager Buck Showalter should have more freedom to mix and match his setup men and use them in critical situations, knowing Britton will be there in the 9th inning. Baltimore’s bullpen was the biggest key to the team’s success last season, and the Orioles need it to get them back into contention this season as well.
The Orioles began Wednesday three games under .500 and a distance 8.5 games out in the AL East. However, the Orioles are a mere three games back in the wild-card race, which is a good spot for a team that hasn’t played all that well this year. Having Britton back gives the Orioles a difference maker who can help them make a push for the playoffs in the second half.