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Britton throws inning in simulated game

Orioles reliever expects to begin rehab assignment next week
Special to MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Orioles closer Zach Britton has moved past the point where he is concerned about the ruptured right Achilles that has kept him out all season. Now, it's all about pitching.

Britton threw a 20-pitch, one-inning simulated game Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field, and will throw a two-inning simulated game Saturday in Tampa. He is expected to begin a Minor League rehabilitation assignment next week at Triple-A Norfolk as he inches closer to returning to the Orioles' active roster.

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CHICAGO -- Orioles closer Zach Britton has moved past the point where he is concerned about the ruptured right Achilles that has kept him out all season. Now, it's all about pitching.

Britton threw a 20-pitch, one-inning simulated game Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field, and will throw a two-inning simulated game Saturday in Tampa. He is expected to begin a Minor League rehabilitation assignment next week at Triple-A Norfolk as he inches closer to returning to the Orioles' active roster.

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"Every time I get on the mound, I'm feeling a little bit better -- kind of like spring," Britton said before Tuesday's game against the White Sox. "Every time you get on the mound, you feel a little bit sharper, and that's where I am right now."

Britton, who sustained the injury in December during a run, is eligible to come off the disabled list Monday. He was 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA in 38 appearances with 15 saves last season.

Turning his focus from the injury to pitching was a major turning point for Britton, who said he now feels normal and is ready to transition to facing another team in a game situation after this week's simulated games.

"It's been a long time coming," Britton said. "I'm at that stage after today where you can only throw so many times against your own guys and you want to get back into some competition. You can get a better read of where you're at from a pitching standpoint and get some adrenaline going and that's what I'm looking forward to the most."

Britton hopes to keep his Minor League stay short and says Orioles trainers have some plans charted for a possible return to the Majors. But as eager as is he is to get back, Britton doesn't want to rush anything. Manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday that he will target Britton to throw five to 10 innings before looking to get him back with the Orioles.

"Nobody knows better than Zach that he's just not going to throw his glove out there and be the guy that saves 50 games in a row," Showalter said. "It's going to be a challenge."

That's why Britton won't return until he is ready, but he knows next week's return to game action will be a big step.

"You never know until you get out there -- you might feel great right off the get-go or you might need a few [rehab appearances] to get into rhythm," Britton said. "It's hard for me to tell you right now."

Jeff Arnold is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago.

Baltimore Orioles, Zach Britton