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Is Zach Britton a Viable Left Handed Bullpen Option for Baltimore Orioles?

December 23rd, 2013 at 8:49 AM
By Josh Michael

The Baltimore Orioles now have two spots open in the bullpen due to the events of late last week as the closer's role is now vacant, as well as a spot for a left hander thanks to Troy Patton's 25 game suspension. Today we take a look at Zach Britton and attempt to answer the question of whether or not Britton is a viable option for the Orioles out of the bullpen.

'Zach Britton' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license:

Britton is an interesting case for the Orioles heading into Spring Training because he is out of minor league options, thus Baltimore will either put him in the rotation, bullpen, trade him, or hope no one claims him if they DFA him. Obviously, the Orioles like Britton and rightfully so. He is a left handed sinker ball pitcher, which is a valuable weapon in Camden Yards, but thus far his potential has not come to the surface on a consistent basis.

Right now, there are four starters penciled into the starting rotation for the Orioles in Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez, but that leaves the fifth spot among several contenders, which includes Britton, but if he cannot earn that rotation spot, he may be looking at the bullpen.

How does Britton stack up as a reliever? Well, let's breakdown some numbers and further evaluate him.

First, he has just two career MLB relief appearances, but the good news is that he has not allowed a run as a reliever posting a 0.00 ERA with three strikeouts and five hits allowed in 4 2/3 innings.

In addition, Britton has only pitched in relief twice in the minor leagues as well, so the first downside would be that Britton has very little experience as a reliever, but Brian Matusz didn't and he has turned into a very quality left handed reliever for the Orioles.

Unlike Matusz, Britton does not have eye popping splits when it comes to right handers or left handers, as right handers hit .285 off of him, while lefties hit .264, including nine home runs in just 322 plate appearances, Those nine home runs are high when you think about the fact that right handers have hit just 13 home runs in 796 plate appearances.

Without the distinction of being able to be a lefty stopper, what role is there for Britton in the bullpen? Well, the Orioles are likely to place T.J. McFarland in AAA Norfolk at the start of the season to work as a starting pitcher, thus the long reliever role is open, and Britton could fill in there. Every team needs a guy that can come in and give you three or more innings out of the bullpen here and there and if Britton cannot earn a spot in the starting rotation, the long reliever role is where he would end up.

How would you feel with Britton in the bullpen as the long reliever? Let your voice be heard by posting a comment!


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Tags: Baltimore, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball, Brian Matusz, MLB, T.J. McFarland, Troy Patton, Zach Britton

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