SARASOTA, Fla. -- Ever since Zach Britton became the Orioles' lights-out closer in 2014, that job in the bullpen has been accounted for. For three years, manager Buck Showalter didn't have to think about who would work the ninth inning.
But last year, he did. Britton missed nearly all of the season's first half with a left forearm injury, and Showalter used Brad Brach instead.
This year, Showalter will go into the season knowing he'll be without Britton, who'll begin the season on the 60-day disabled list, recovering from surgery to repair a torn right Achilles tendon.
Since Britton won't join the O's for at least the first two months of the season, Showalter will have to find another closer.
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It's likely to be Brach. An American League All-Star in 2016 when he stood out as a setup man, Brach had some issues last year as Britton's stand-in. He blew six of 24 save opportunities and had a 3.18 ERA.
"I gained confidence about that role with him in that he's handled the adversity well and the season didn't get away from him," Showalter said.
But Showalter isn't committing to Brach yet.
"It's something we're going to address internally, openly," Showalter said. "I want those guys to all know what the idea is going in. That's coming before too long."
Without Britton, four spots in the bullpen are accounted for: Brach, right-handers Darren O'Day and Mychal Givens and left-hander Richard Bleier.
Showalter noted that O'Day, who has saved 17 games in his six-year Orioles career, can close. Givens potentially can as well, though he has yet to record a big league save.
"But with Brad, I think when you have the background of closing out big innings like the eighth inning and the seventh, there might be big outs there," Showalter said. "There's a real trust with him is what I'm getting at. And there is with Darren, and Mychal has got a chance to emerge as that. He's on the cusp of being that."
O'Day pitched a clean eighth inning in Wednesday's 7-4 win over the Yankees, and he has allowed one run in five spring frames.
The 31-year-old Brach has allowed two runs on four hits in three innings so far this spring.
"Regardless of what role, no matter in spring, I'm just always trying to get better," Brach said. "I try to get into a mindset. You just go out there and be ready to pitch whenever you're called on. I know that's a very generic, blah answer, but it is kind of the way it is every spring. Try not to think about it, just go out there whenever I'm called and get out."
Brach has a booster in Showalter, who has grown to depend on him ever since he came to the O's prior to the 2014 season.
"You know what you're getting every day," Showalter said. "There's something to be said for that. He's a real consistent personality."