Heading into the 2014 season, the role as the Baltimore Orioles closer was one of the biggest question marks surrounding this team as they looked to get back to the playoffs and their third straight winning season. Tommy Hunter had assumed the role, but had little confidence shown in him by fans, and after struggling, Zach Britton has proceeded to solidify himself as the team's closer.
Who would have thought it?
In Spring Training, there were several names thought to be contenders for the closer's role, from Hunter to Darren O'Day to even some saying Kevin Gausman, but Britton was not a name that was mentioned frequently, if at all. In fact, Britton was thought of as a burden prior to Spring Training because he had no options remaining and many felt that he was just going to take up a roster spot because the Orioles wouldn't want to lose him to waivers.
Fast forward to May 27 and Britton is one of, if not the best reliever in the American League and has now solidified himself as the Orioles closer.
Britton currently owns a 3-0 record, with a 0.65 ERA, three saves, and a 0.87 WHIP in 21 games and 27 2/3 innings of work. Opponents have hit just .161 against him and has one of the best ground ball rates in the league.
His 0.65 ERA is the lowest among all qualifying AL relievers.
He has been so dominant, that many were calling for him to get a chance in the starting rotation, but the Orioles seemed to feel that he was so valuable to the bullpen that making that move would be detrimental to the team, especially since he hadn't been stretched out for quite some time.
It turns out, they appear to be correct.
Britton is a perfect 3-3 in save opportunities since being given the opportunity at the closer's role after Hunter's struggles. In his three saves, Britton has allowed just two total base runners in those three appearances, both of which came in yesterday's victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
He has not allowed a single run to score in his last 12 appearances, which is 12 2/3 innings, and over that span he has allowed just five hits and four walks.
Britton certainly appears to have the closer's job until he proves otherwise, and his sinker is certainly one of the better individual pitches currently in the league.
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