Britton has surgery to repair right Achilles

December 20th, 2017

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles sustained a huge blow on Wednesday morning with news that closer Zach Britton had ruptured his right Achilles sprinting during an offseason workout the previous day. Britton underwent surgery Thursday and will be out for at least four months.

"It's probably the most frustrating thing I've experienced," said Britton, who underwent an MRI to confirm the rupture. "Last year [being on the disabled list was disappointing], but those were minor things. Now, this isn't something that's going to affect me long term. As soon as I have the surgery and rehab, I can get back to pitching like I can pitch. It's not career threatening or anything like that. But it's just going to be a real grind. I was really frustrated because I was feeling good with the forearm and the knee. I was about to throw bullpens. I was right where I wanted to be."

Britton said he wasn't doing anything unusual during Tuesday's workout when he suffered the injury.

"It was after throwing, I was just doing my regular running," Britton said. "Felt like something punched me in the leg. I went down. It was probably the most painful thing I've ever experienced."

The news comes at a particularly unfortunate time for the Orioles, who find themselves at an organizational crossroads with superstar -- and pending free agent -- Manny Machado. The club has been weighing trade offers for Machado and also was listening to deals for Britton.

Britton, who will also be eligible for free agency after the 2018 season, was nearly traded to the Astros in July, and he has been the subject of trade rumors again this offseason. The injury will take Britton out of play in any potential deal, removing one of Baltimore's best trade chips.

Britton, coming off a left forearm injury that sidelined him for a good chunk of the 2017 season, saw his American League record of 60 consecutive converted saves snapped in August. Without him, the Orioles will turn to and in the later innings.

"Fortunately, we have some capable people in the end of our bullpen," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. "We were definitely looking around this offseason for left-handers, so we will continue to look for another left-hander."

Britton said Jung immediately knew the Achilles was ruptured, though the good news is the surgery will not require a hamstring graft. Britton is hoping that, coupled with the fact that it is his landing foot, will help hasten his return.

"Since I'm a pitcher, it's better than being a football player or position player," Britton said. "The big thing is supporting the land foot, gaining flexibility and strength back. From a recovery standpoint, after surgery, normally the first month or two will give you the timeline. There's a timeline, but it doesn't really pertain to me because I'm a pitcher, it doesn't happen that often to pitchers ... as quickly as I can put weight on it and do things right, we will."

Still, Britton's future with the Orioles may be uncertain. While the club can't non-tender him, it can release Britton -- who will likely get a raise from the $11.4 million he made in 2017 via arbitration -- and save a good chunk of his contract. Britton, who is represented by agent Scott Boras, said he's prepared for either scenario.

"I know it's a possibility [that I get released]," said Britton, who was drafted and came up through the Orioles' system. "[Boras and I have] kind of discussed it, but until they make a decision, we will go from there. The fact that it's not an arm injury bodes well for me. If the Orioles decide to move on, I think I'll have interest from other clubs."

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)

Although eminently skilled, Britton was already an uncertain fantasy commodity after dealing with forearm and knee injuries during the '17 season in which he recorded a 1.53 WHIP with a 1.6 K/BB ratio. Now set to miss the initial months of '18, the ground-ball specialist can be stashed in 12-team formats, but he should go undrafted in 10-team leagues. Meanwhile, Brach -- who owns a career 3.00 ERA and led the Orioles with 18 saves last season -- can be selected in the second half of standard-sized drafts as he prepares to open '18 in the closer's role.