Orioles rookie pitcher Zach Britton on surprise call-up and debut: “I’m happy to be here”

April 07, 2011 | Ryan Chell

For all the debate going into spring training as to whether prized pitching prospect Zach Britton would join the big league club at the start of the season and fit right into the starting rotation, that argument came to an end last weekend when one of the Orioles’ highly touted rookie made his major league debut against the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday in a 5-1 victory.

Zach Britton

Britton, a third round pick by the Orioles in the 2006 MLB Draft out of high school, quickly made the rise throughout Baltimore’s minor league system.

He quickly earned national prominence as the Orioles’ top-rated prospect, and was the 10th best in the nation according to an early Baseball America poll.

And he put the numbers up in spring training to back those opinions.

And after going 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in Sarasota in five games, Oriole fans-and now we know the coaching staff had similar desires-wanted Britton to join the 25-man roster and the Orioles’ five-man pitching rotation.

And at the expense of fellow teammate Brian Matusz going on the DL with a back injury, he was able to do so Sunday versus the Rays and make the most of it.

Britton in six innings of work allowed only three hits, one run, while striking out six for his first ever major league win.

His performance completed the three-game sweep of the defending AL East Champion Rays, and on top of piggy-backing fellow “rookie” Chris Tillman’s six no-hit innings on Saturday, his performance set the team up for success in the hope-opener against Detroit Monday this week-another 5-1 win by Baltimore.

Britton joined “The Mobtown Sports Beat” with Thyrl Nelson Tuesday on the Orioles off-day as both he and his team’s emotions have been riding high given the team’s surprising start.

“I’m just excited to be here,” Britton told Nelson. “You know, it’s been pretty exciting the last couple days, especially with Opening Day. We’re riding a pretty good streak right now. Hopefully, we’ll continue it.”

Britton told Nelson that he had some jitters going into Sunday’s game playing in a professional stadium like Tropicana Field, and if there was any criticism of Britton’s performance on Sunday-it could have been problems with control and his pitch count at times.

Britton backed up that argument, and said that his adrenaline may have got the best of him in some key situations.

“It’s all about sharpening my command,” Britton said. “I wasn’t happy with the three walks.”

But, Britton said he’s never been a negative person, and his manager in Buck Showalter told him that looking at the things that went wrong in a special event for him would just be the wrong thing to do.

“Once I get a couple starts under my belt, then I’ll start looking at the negatives,” the Orioles rookie said. “The first couple starts I’m just going to look at the things I did well and things I can improve on like throwing strikes…making sure I’m being aggressive and making them beat me, not beating myself.”

It was also a testament to Britton’s character regarding the fact that he rebounded from being sent down the week before to having to quickly adjust being mentally prepared to face a big-league ball-club.

“I’m happy to be here,” he said. “With the situation that happened in camp, I understood the decision was just business, and they told me I wasn’t going to be down in Norfolk very long, and I wasn’t down there at all.”

Britton’s next start will come Friday versus another AL Champion-in this case the pennant-winning Texas Rangers.

And ever since taking in both his first ever win and start on Sunday to enjoying the environment of Opening Day the following afternoon, his focus has solely been on that Texas lineup of Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Adrian Beltre.

But yet, he’s not going to get himself worked up by the next step in his progression as an Orioles starting pitcher.

“When it’s my turn to get out there, it’s business as usual. I’m not trying to psych myself up or over-hype the hitters. I’m just going to try to go out there and pitch my game,” Britton replied.

And when fellow southpaw Brian Matusz finally does become healthy yet again, he hopes that the team will be far enough along that welcoming him back will be the best thing that could happen.

“Unfortunately Brian got hurt but I’m just hoping to fill in and when he does get back, we’ll have a pretty good rotation,” Britton said. “We’re looking forward to getting him back hopefully so he can continue what we started.”

WNST thanks Zach Britton for joining us to talk about the start of the season and hope to continue following his progress in an Oriole uniform! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!