Zach Britton sent back to Triple-A Norfolk in Orioles' roster shuffle


  • Zach Britton mades his first start of 2013 with the Orioles against the Mariners on Monday night.
Zach Britton mades his first start of 2013 with the Orioles against… (Otto Greule Jr, Getty Images )
April 30, 2013|By Dan Connolly | The Baltimore Sun

SEATTLE — Orioles left-hander Zach Britton was hoping to get more than one start to show the organization that he had regained the form that made him one of the club's most promising pitchers a few years ago.

He is going to have to do that again at Triple-A.

As part of Tuesday's roster shuffling designed to provide help for the bullpen, Britton was optioned to Norfolk and right-hander Zach Clark, a UMBC product, was recalled from Triple-A.

"They needed another guy, the bullpen has been battered," said Britton, who allowed six earned runs in six innings Monday in his first start of the season for the Orioles. "So unfortunately I threw yesterday, so I am the guy to go."

Britton was called up Thursday from Norfolk — where he had a 1.98 ERA in three starts — to provide bullpen depth. When he wasn't needed, he received Monday's start, but it didn't go as well as he had hoped.

"I don't consider myself a one-and-done guy, a spot guy. I'd like to get an extended look, especially after having 10 days off," said Britton, who hadn't pitched since April 18. "I'd like to hopefully get into my five-day routine and show them what I have been doing down there. I didn't feel I presented myself the best that I could. So I didn't expect for it to be a one-time shot, but I'm just going to keep going down there and throwing well and hopefully get another extended look."

Showalter said the reason for the demotion was more about adding an arm then demoting Britton.

"Making sure we had coverage in the bullpen as we have, and we will continue to do," Showalter said. "It's [Clark's] turn to pitch, they had an extra starter down there [at Norfolk] and it was a good fit for us for the next few days."

Showalter said he believes that Britton's line combined with Joe Saunders' complete-game dominance on Monday made Britton's performance look worse than it was.

"He's capable of better. I like the way he handled adversity a little bit early on. On the flip side, you like to see, him be a little more consistent, but that's really being picky," Showalter said. "He had a few bounces go against him; that happens up here. But their guy was better. He keeps pitching like he was in Norfolk, he will be back."

Britton, 25, said he believes he can put the rough start against the Mariners out of his mind and continue to produce at Norfolk. But he would rather be with the Orioles.

"I obviously I didn't feel like I presented myself as best as I could with the long layoff," he said. "I felt like if I could get back in my routine I would show them what I was doing down there on a more consistent basis. It was disappointing not to get an extended look."

Clark recalled for relief

Clark, a non-drafted free agent out of UMBC in 2006 who was added to the club's 40-man roster this offseason, flew to Seattle Tuesday afternoon and is expected to be available to pitch out of the bullpen this week. If he's not needed, he could be an option for a spot start Friday or Saturday in Los Angeles.

It's an inspiring story — a local product that grew up in Delaware and was signed by the Orioles' top local scout Dean Albany. This was his eighth season in the minors; he turns 30 in July.

"This isn't a charity case. This guy deserves it," Showalter said. "[The roster opening] happens to fall on his day, and he's on the roster, but if he wasn't doing a good job, [he wouldn't have been recalled]."

Clark was 1-2 with a 4.56 ERA in five starts at Triple-A Norfolk this season, but he allowed just four hits in seven shutout innings in his last start for the Tides. In 2012, he won 15 games and posted a combined 2.79 ERA at Double-A Bowie and Norfolk.

"He's coming off a really good start and [is] kind of back on his feet. We know he's not going to be scared and he's going to throw it over the plate," Showalter said. I'd be less than frank if there's not a part that tugs at you emotionally, but I'm not going to let it get in the way of our ability to win or lose a baseball game … I'm happy for him. Him and his family."

Clark arrived at Safeco Field about 90 minutes before game time.

Steve Johnson re-instated, optioned

As part of Tuesday's roster shuffling, right-hander Steve Johnson (lat strain) was activated from the 15-day disabled list and optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, where he already was on rehab assignment.

The St. Paul's graduate has been on the 15-day DL since the season began, but he made two rehab starts for the Tides, going 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in 10 2/3 innings.

Johnson cannot be recalled to the big leagues for at least 10 days unless he is replacing an injured player and therefore is not an option for this weekend's spot start. Regardless, Showalter said he believes Johnson needs several more appearances in the minors to regain his strength and form.

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