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Showalter: Britton could return by June 15

Orioles will re-evaluate closer after upcoming rehab stint with Triple-A Norfolk
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

BALTIMORE -- Orioles closer Zach Britton will pitch for Triple-A Norfolk several times next week, beginning on Tuesday as he continues to progress in a rehab assignment that could see him activated off the disabled list as early as Baltimore's next homestand.

Britton will travel to Columbus and pitch for the Tides on Tuesday and Thursday. He will then go back-to-back the following Monday and Tuesday, and the club will evaluate his next steps based off of that.

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BALTIMORE -- Orioles closer Zach Britton will pitch for Triple-A Norfolk several times next week, beginning on Tuesday as he continues to progress in a rehab assignment that could see him activated off the disabled list as early as Baltimore's next homestand.

Britton will travel to Columbus and pitch for the Tides on Tuesday and Thursday. He will then go back-to-back the following Monday and Tuesday, and the club will evaluate his next steps based off of that.

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"[June 15] would be the earliest we would [add him]," manager Buck Showalter said, specifying the opener of a weekend set against Miami. "I don't think Zach completely agrees with that."

Britton, who had offseason surgery on his right Achilles heel, is champing at the bit. The lefty joked it took longer for him to figure out the postgame spread than throw eight pitches for Double-A Bowie on Friday night.

"I've been feeling good," Britton said of his rehab. "I think we threw so many sim games and bullpens before that I thought I'd be a little bit ahead of where I would traditionally [be] in spring, so I feel really good. Accomplishing all the little things I want to accomplish. Now, it's just about getting some more innings and getting activated at some point."

Britton will be a free agent at the end of the year, making him a viable trade candidate for the last-place O's if he can prove he's healthy and productive. And there have been plenty of opposing scouts in the stands for his first few rehab games. To that end, the lefty said his arm feels fantastic because of such a long layoff, joking that more guys should do it.

"Last year, when I went on rehab with the forearm, it was weird because I wasn't able to move the ball the way I wanted to, whereas this, I feel great, arm feels great," said Britton who went eight months between games.

"I expected that my arm would feel pretty good and the results have been good so far."

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