Britton Shines Again, Making Strong Case for Opening Day Roster

Orioles pitcher Zach Britton added another line to his extremely impressive Spring Training resume yesterday, pitching five innings and allowing just one earned run against the New York Yankees.  That single earned run was Britton’s first of the spring in 14 innings pitched.

The 23-year old lefty has allowed 14 hits in those 14 innings, struck out nine and walked only four.  His fastball was hitting 96 yesterday on the radar gun.

Despite his strong Spring Training, chances are very slim that Britton will make the trip north with the team to start the 2011 campaign.  As Dan Connolly explains, Britton is in the same boat that players like Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz before him found themselves in, with the team not wanting to start their service clock too early.

Simply put, if Britton begins the year on the major league roster and remains on it for all of 2011, he will earn one full year of service time. Assuming he continues as a major leaguer after that, he will be eligible for free agency after the 2016 season.

However, if Britton is not recalled until April 21 or later, he will not be credited with a full year of service time, meaning he will not be eligible for free agency until after 2017. For a team that is hoping to collect quality young starters, keeping a pitcher like Britton in the minors for three weeks in order to retain him for an additional season is crucial to that development plan.

In addition, the O’s schedule is such that – with early season off-days and whatnot – they likely won’t need a fifth starting pitcher at all until at least mid-April.

All of this means that Zach Britton will likely have a chance to dominate AAA hitters for the immediate future.  Barring any setbacks, though, expect to see this young arm showing up in Birdland sooner rather than later.

Roberts Update

In other news, Brian Roberts had two hits in Tuesday’s action.  The other day, I had expressed some concern about Roberts’ lack of swings in his return to action over the weekend, so it was good to hear that B.Rob was not only getting his hacks in, but was making solid contact.  He also struck out twice, which brings his total to three in just six official at-bats since returning to the lineup.  That’s a Mark Reynolds-type K-clip (the new third baseman has 18 in 48 AB this Spring – a 38% K rate. Ew.)

I’m not too worried about that though.  It is still March, after all.  Every game that Roberts plays is good news at this point, regardless of what his stats are.


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