Simon in Florida, may resume pitching soon

Britton prepares to make debut

April 02, 2011|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — — Orioles right-hander Alfredo Simon arrived in Florida on Saturday afternoon and is expected to report to the club's minor-league facility at Twin Lakes Park on Sunday.

Simon, who had been detained in his native Dominican Republic since January as a suspect in the shooting death of his cousin and the wounding of another man in the early morning hours of New Year's Day, is currently on the major-league restricted list and is not part of the 40-man roster.

At this point, there is still a question as to whether Simon has been completely cleared of wrongdoing in the incident, but the fact he obtained his visa and traveled out of the country is an encouraging sign for the 29-year-old reliever.

He was never formally charged in the shooting, but was held in a Dominican jail from January 3 until he was granted bail in March.

It's too early to speculate when and if he will be able to leave extended spring training and begin a baseball assignment.

Phil Isaac, Simon's U.S.-based agent, would not comment further, except to confirm that Simon is out of the Dominican and in Florida.

Britton back at Trop

The last and only time Zach Britton was at Tropicana Field, he was an 11-year-old sitting in the left-field stands hoping to see a little history. That was August 6, 1999 and Britton and his youth travel team from California took a day off from a tournament at Disney World to watch Wade Boggs attempt to get his 3,000th hit. The Hall-of-Famer was 0-for-3 with a walk that game, but reached the milestone by getting three hits the next day.

Now, Britton will have a little of his own history unfold at Tropicana Field on Sunday, when he makes his major-league debut. Before Saturday's game, Britton went back to the seats he had in 1999, took a cellphone picture from the vantage point and sent it to his father.

"I went up to where I was sitting to just kind of remember that moment," Britton said. "It's great to be here."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter chuckled about how wide-eyed Briton was Saturday.

"You can see from talking to him why we decided to let him get a peek, a day to get his feet on the ground a little bit," Showalter said. "Regardless, it is still about pitching and getting your emotions in check."

Britton, 23, was supposed to be readying for his first start at Triple-A Norfolk, where he was expected to stay for at least 20 days so the club could delay his free agency by a year. But an injury to lefty Brian Matusz (intercostals strain) has forced Britton to the big leagues quicker than he had expected.

"I was shocked. I had 20 days imprinted in my mind, or whatever it was going to be, so I was not expecting it at all," Britton said. "I felt like I was way down on the totem pole and they had a lot of options before they were going to bring me up. But unfortunately, Brian's injury I guess made them rethink that and I'm thankful that I'm here."

Matusz to stay with team

Instead of staying behind in Sarasota, Matusz will travel with the team back to Baltimore on Sunday and meet with club orthopedist John Wilckens on Monday.

Matusz, who will be put on the 15-day disabled list prior to Britton's start Sunday, will then go to Philadelphia on Tuesday to meet with the doctor who removed a wart from Matusz's left middle finger on March 4, according to Showalter. It is a routine check, the manager said.

The timetable for Matusz's recovery from the muscle strain in the left side of his back is between three and six weeks.

Wieters impresses Showalter

Showalter made a point Saturday to laud catcher Matt Wieters' work behind the plate in the season opener Friday. Wieters caught three, two-strike foul tips for outs in the game.

"I don't think I have ever seen that before. That is hard to do," Showalter said. "He caught one down below his shin guards. … He had a great game."

Around the horn

Britton said he had to get 30 tickets for his debut Sunday. Most of his family and some friends will be in attendance. … Jeremy Guthrie's eight-innings of three-hit shutout ball on Friday was just the third time in modern club history that an Orioles' pitcher has gone eight or more scoreless innings and allowed three or fewer hits in a season opener. Dave McNally (1973 versus Milwaukee) and Jim Palmer (1975 at Detroit) also did it.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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