ST. PETERSBURG -- All-Star closer Zach Britton took a big step toward his return on Saturday, throwing a two-inning simulated game prior to the O's contest against the Rays. Britton is slated to begin a rehab assignment next week, likely for Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday, as the lefty has passed
ST. PETERSBURG -- All-Star closer Zach Britton took a big step toward his return on Saturday, throwing a two-inning simulated game prior to the O's contest against the Rays. Britton is slated to begin a rehab assignment next week, likely for Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday, as the lefty has passed all his initial tests in a return from offseason right Achilles surgery.
"I felt, that was probably the best one I've had," Britton said of Saturday's simulated game, which featured a few players from extended spring camp who came over to Tropicana Field. "I think maybe it seemed like more of a game situation with guys behind me that could field the ball and stuff like that. So I'm definitely ready to start a rehab assignment."
Britton, who is on the 60-day disabled list, said he's no longer thinking about the injury when he's on the mound. The last few outings have been about getting back into pitching shape and returning to the form that made him one of the best late-inning arms in baseball.
The plan is for Britton, right now, to do most of his rehab with Norfolk, though that timeline is flexible depending on how long he actually needs.
"He's got to have some back-to-back outings. We don't have a multiple-inning [stint] but he is going to potentially pitch an inning and go back out and pitch to one hitter the next inning," manager Buck Showalter said of the bridges Britton still needs to cross.
"It's going to be a whole different level though. … A lot of things are going to be more realistic [than sim games]."
When Britton underwent the surgery in December, early timetables had a June return as the best-case scenario. And the lefty agreed on Saturday that he was pleased with how smoothly things have gone.
"They're not very common [procedures] in baseball, so a lot of credit goes to [head athletic trainer Brian] Ebel really stepping up on that. Different techniques and equipment that we bought to really jump-start the healing," Britton said. "Yeah, I think where we are so far is pretty impressive. Even the doctor that did the surgery said when he saw me in Anaheim, he was blown away at the progress that we've made and a lot of that is because of what Ebel's done."
The Orioles have decided to not place designated hitter Mark Trumbo on the disabled list, and they hope he can be an available player as early as Monday.
"We're going to wait on him," Showalter said of Trumbo, who has been sidelined with a right knee injury since Tuesday in Chicago. "Obviously he's worth waiting on, so we're going to wait at least another day. … I was talking to him in the dugout [Friday] and he was feeling better it seemed like every hour that passed."
Showalter had said Friday that the O's were likely to put Trumbo on the disabled list, but now they seem OK playing with a short bench. They have gotten back-to-back quality outings out of their rotation which makes it easier to navigate the roster this weekend.
Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.