Zach Britton was back and now he’s gone again. The Orioles closer is still being bothered by the forearm strain that landed him on the disabled list in April. That will claim time for him again here in May, and most likely longer this time, he told O’s reporters before Saturday’s game against the White Sox.
The Britton-less bullpen arrangement with Brad Brach as the substitute closer and everybody else being bumped a rung up the ladder will be continuing for an unknown period of time.
Britton told Orioles reporters that the MRI he received on Friday was “about the same as last time” - that is, no indication of damage to his ligaments that would necessitate surgery. He did say there was “a little bit more inflammation” which he attributed to having thrown fewer than 24 hours before the MRI. Worth noting that in some cases, inflammation hides whether there is more serious damage.
The next step for Britton is that he will be getting a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a Los Angeles-based surgeon whose name may be familiar in Birdland as he performed the surgeries on Manny Machado’s knees.
At least so far, this is being treated as a routine part of the process by both Britton and Orioles manager Buck Showalter. In his own pre-game remarks, Showalter told reporters, “I’m pretty comfortable with what we’re dealing with right now,” and added that he thought rest would be sufficient for Britton.
Frustrating for Orioles fans is that Britton may have dragged out this problem by rushing back sooner than he should have, he conceded:
I think the doctors and the trainers wanted me to be a little more cautious with it at the time, maybe take another week. I felt pretty good and wanted to come back to the team. I was kind of over sitting on the bench watching games and felt I was in a good enough position to come back, but obviously I wasn't.
If a player like Britton says he’s ready, what can you do? Most of the time he’ll probably be right, but this time he was not.
Britton also said that he knew something was wrong because, although he didn’t experience any pain until after leaving Boston, he could tell that his sinker wasn’t sinking. This non-pitcher and non-medical professional can’t help but wonder whether this same problem was ailing Britton before he ever went on the DL, perhaps contributing to his 1.778 WHIP.
For a day at least, Britton hitting the disabled list will be convenient for the Orioles as it allows them to bring back a player who’s been optioned within the last ten days.
That looks to be Alec Asher, whose presence is needed after Gabriel Ynoa was pressed into long relief for six innings last night, leaving the Orioles without an “Oh, crap, our starter took a liner off the wrist or got ejected by an overzealous umpire in the first inning” emergency pitcher.