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Orioles' Zach Britton hopes to duplicate great 2016 season

Orioles' Zach Britton hopes to duplicate great 2016 season

SARASOTA, Fla. – It's been a short spring training for Zach Britton.

Early in camp, the Baltimore Orioles' left-handed reliever, who converted all 47 of his save opportunities in 2016, felt discomfort in his left oblique and was held out. Britton has said if this were the regular season he would have pitched, and that he is close to being ready to go.

Manager Buck Showalter had wanted Britton to begin pitching in the second week of Grapefruit League games and follow the plan he set for two veteran right-handers Brad Brach and Darren O'Day.

Instead, the Orioles kept Britton out until March 14 when he allowed two runs on four hits in an inning against Tampa Bay. Britton was upset after that game, but he followed it with a scoreless inning on March 17 against Pittsburgh.

The oblique issues are long gone, Britton said.

"Well, the second one was a lot better than the first one. That's a good sign," Britton said. "No more symptoms of that, nothing's creeped back or anything. I feel really good now. I can just focus on getting ready for the season. I feel pretty good with where I'm at this year compared to where I was last year."

Britton followed the two innings with a minor league game Monday where he struck out the side on 12 pitches.

His schedule is set for the rest of spring. On Wednesday, Britton will pitch an inning against Tampa Bay, and after a few days off, he'll pitch on consecutive days.

"I'm pretty close. As a reliever now, it only takes a few innings., Britton said. "It kind of clicks for you one day, and then you're ready for the season to start where as a starter you've got to build up those innings, and I don't need to do that anymore."

In 2016, Britton had a marvelous season. After giving up his third earned run of the year on April 30, Britton went nearly four months – until Aug. 24 when he allowed his fourth and final run.

"A historical year," Showalter said. "I don't think you'll ever see another year like that."

The Orioles ended that year with Britton famously sitting in the bullpen when the Toronto Blue Jays won the American League wild-card game last October.

Early in spring training, Britton was the most popular interview subject in the clubhouse, but now the attention has gone elsewhere.

"A lot of people want to ask me about the wild-card game, and I think you guys have all covered it. I don't know how much more you can say on that, but everyone wants to talk about it and bring it up when they come in," Britton said. "There are other storylines in here that were a little more interesting, I think."

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Closer Zach Britton tears Achilles tendon in offseason training

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Closer Zach Britton tears Achilles tendon in offseason training

BALTIMORE -- Orioles closer Zach Britton ruptured his right Achilles tendon in offseason training, a significant injury that could cause him to miss part of the 2018 season.

Baltimore executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette on Wednesday confirmed the torn Achilles tendon. It was not immediately clear how long Britton would be out.

In a tweet announcing the injury, the team said Britton was injured Tuesday while training in California and wished him a speedy recovery.

Britton had 15 saves and a 2.89 ERA with the Orioles this past season. In 2016, had a 0.54 ERA and was perfect in save opportunities with a major league-leading 47.

The left-hander, who turns 30 on Friday, is arbitration eligible after making $11.4 million last season. Britton can become a free agent after next season, which made him a strong trade candidate before the injury.

Britton has converted 135 of 145 save opportunities since becoming the Orioles' closer in 2014.

MORE ORIOLES: GAUSMAN CHANGES HIS NUMBER TO HONOR ROY HALLADAY

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Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

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USA Today Sports

Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

BALTIMORE  -- Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman will wear No. 34 next season as a tribute to Roy Halladay, who was killed in a plane crash last month.

Gausman announced the switch Thursday on his Twitter account. The right-hander wore No. 39 last year.

Gausman and Halladay are both from Colorado, and the Orioles pitcher said he followed Halladay's career closely and idolized him.

In a post next a photo of his new jersey, Gausman wrote: "Roy gave me the inspiration that I could fulfill even my biggest of dreams -- being a pitcher just like him."

Gausman concluded: "The loss of Roy is tragic and saddening, but I feel honored to have watched everything he achieved."

Halladay died on Nov. 7 when his small plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He played 16 big league seasons, winning the Cy Young Award in each league and being named an All-Star eight times.