Zach Britton: Key to the Orioles' Future

Rookie Zach Britton took the mound today for the first time as an Oriole.

As rookie Zachary Britton takes the mound for the first time on April 3, 2011, he will not be happy for the reason why he was called up. After excelling in Spring Training in March, Britton knew it was just a matter of time that he would be called up to play for the Orioles based on his performance. Unfortunately he would have to settle for being called up due to another pitcher's injury. As Brian Matusz was sent to the disabled list on Friday, the Orioles Front Office needed to make a decision to determine who would be moved to the rotation. As the Orioles prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Rays, they already have been hit with injuries to the pitching staff. Justin Duchscherer, a free agent signed to help bring some experience to the rotation after missing much of the last 2 season to injuries, was placed on the 15-Day DL on March 22nd after sustaining a hip strain.

After Britton was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2006 amateur draft, he didn't get the kind of fanfare that first rounders get and was unknown for his first two seasons in the minors. After spending time in the rookie class A-ball affiliate in 2006, he was sent to the Aberdeen IronBirds ballclub and started working on his array of pitching. In 2007 Joe Jordan, the director of scouting at the time, saw a make-up in Britton that people did not see and emphasized the work that it would take for Britton to excel in the minors and one day pitch in the majors.

“The only thing Zach Britton needs… is time. He has gotten stronger, and out game reports show that he's up to 92 (MPH) and he's touched 93 (MPH), but if he pitches 88-92 (MPH) with command and a changeup, we gotta get him a slider, or something… he needs a third pitch.” said Jordan. “He'll be fine. I'm happy with where he's at.”

By the start of the 2008 season, Britton's name slowly began to reach the minds of scouts and hardcore Orioles fans everywhere. During his time in the minors, Britton worked on 4 pitches: the 4-seam, sinker, slider and changeup. As he still needs time to work on his changeup and get it to drop at just the right time, his sinker and slider are what will determine if he has what it takes to be a contributor to the Orioles. Both are considered to be above average and he has also been clocked with a 96 MPH fastball that should get him some strikeouts this season.

One thing that Britton will need to remember is that although his opportunity to pitch might have come as a result of another pitcher getting injured, his spring training numbers were impressive enough to give Buck Showalter and the Front Office a fit to decide whether to keep him in the majors or wait to start his service time after April 21st. In 3 games that Britton pitched during Spring Training, he compiled a 3-0 W/L with a 1.35 ERA in 20 innings of work. One stat that stood out was his GO/AO (ground out to air out ratio) numbered at 2.75. Britton's sinker could minimize the number of homeruns in Camden Yards and with the Orioles infield defense; his slider will keep the Orioles defenders busy with groundouts. If he pitches a complete season with the Orioles, he will make the case to be the American League Rookie of the Year if he is able to translate his minor league success and work off of his Spring Training numbers.

2011 Projected Stats: 9-3 W/L, 3.95 ERA

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