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Britton continues rehab, hopeful for new pact

Closer hopes to be back in May; longest-tenured Oriole wants to stay
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Closer Zach Britton stood in the Orioles' clubhouse on Wednesday morning optimistic about his current rehab timeline and, like many of his teammates, unsure of his future in the organization.

Britton, who ruptured his right Achilles tendon just before Christmas, will throw in a boot for the first time later this week. He believes he can be back playing as early as May -- certainly before the All-Star break if things continue progressing -- in what could be his final season before free agency.

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Closer Zach Britton stood in the Orioles' clubhouse on Wednesday morning optimistic about his current rehab timeline and, like many of his teammates, unsure of his future in the organization.

Britton, who ruptured his right Achilles tendon just before Christmas, will throw in a boot for the first time later this week. He believes he can be back playing as early as May -- certainly before the All-Star break if things continue progressing -- in what could be his final season before free agency.

"I've been here since I was 18 years old. It would be really weird to be in another clubhouse in a different uniform," said Britton, who is the longest-tenured active Oriole. "I think my situation is the same as a lot of other guys. A lot of guys in here would like to be back, it's just about the opportunity. A lot of us haven't been presented with the opportunity to even consider coming back at this point. I'm sure there will be some talks at some point, and we'll go from there. But I don't even have anything to consider at this point. I'm kind of in the same boat as a lot of guys."

Does Britton think the Orioles -- who could also lose Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Brad Brach to free agency -- want him to stay long term?

"That's a tough question. I think they absolutely would like to have a lot of guys back. Whether or not that's realistic contract-wise, I don't know," Britton said of an organization at a crossroads with both executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter also in the last year of their respective deals.

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"But I think they would love to keep a lot of guys here who they've had here for a long time. I just don't know where they see the organization going next year."

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This season, Britton is focused on a return to form, and staying healthy when he does rejoin the club. The former All-Star saw a doctor on Friday, and has been at the O's spring home for the last three days, continuing his rehab.

"The thing with the doctor is just he doesn't really believe in like, a set schedule. The timeframe for the healing was 12 weeks for the ligament to be completely healed from the surgery. Your chance of re-rupturing from doing athletic [activities] went down to pretty much nothing," Britton said. "So right now there's still that chance if you fell awkwardly, or did box jumps for some stupid reason that you'd injure yourself again. So, once the 12 weeks is up, I'll be cleared to do a lot more baseball-related things."

One of the major hurdles with rehab will be the mental aspect.

"Fielding my position is going to be a big challenge, I think mentally for me," Britton said. "Physically, I'll probably be ready to do it. Mentally covering first, and things like that. My understanding is the pitching part of it is one of the least stressful things I'm going to do on it. It's the fielding the position and running to first base. That's really going to stress the Achilles out, and be a test for me whenever I get around to that."

While he rehabs, Britton still plans on being involved this spring, helping the young guys and offering advice when he can.

"Hopefully this isn't my last year here, but I want to enjoy the spring." Britton said. "Obviously, I'm not going to have a spring, which stinks, but [I want to] enjoy it because I don't know if I'll be here next year.

"I think I can help out a lot of these other guys. I'm not going to be getting ready for the season right now, so I think I actually have a chance to maybe step back a little bit. You're kind of a little selfish at this point in the season. Normally, you're getting ready for the season. Right now, I'm doing my physical therapy, and just trying to get back on the field. Guys like Tanner Scott right next to me. I can pick his brain a little bit more maybe than I would have normally, help him out. There's some other guys, too, I can help out, but I'll be watching, ragging some guys out on the field, but I'll definitely be involved."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Baltimore Orioles, Zach Britton