The best advice Zach Britton has gotten since arriving in the big leagues came from veteran Michael Gonzalez and fellow young buck Jake Arrieta:
"They taught me that it's the same game, and to focus on being yourself and things will work out," said Britton.
It sounds simple, but for most rookies, it's not the same game as the minor leagues. The majors are a place where the lights are brighter, the stakes are higher and the hitters don't just make adjustments from game to game. They make adjustments during at-bats.
"I'm starting to notice it now," Britton said. "I think it was Evan Longoria who was my first taste of a hitter making an adjustment actually during the at-bat. It's something that makes me say, 'Wow.' It's fun, though. It makes it more of a game; a mind game. I now say, 'Okay, I'm going to outsmart him because if he makes an adjustment, then I'm going to make an adjustment.'"
The Orioles third-round pick has shown poise and mental toughness in his first seven starts in the big leagues. Coming into Thursday's start, Britton had a 5-2 record and an ERA of just 2.92. He's found ways to limit damage after bad innings, and has posted wins against offensive-minded teams like Texas and Boston.
Today, he'll be looking to help the O's sweep the Mariners as he goes up against Seattle southpaw Jason Vargas, who is coming off his best outing of the year.
During the Birds' series against Seattle, we saw three of the American League's most promising young pitchers in Jake Arrieta, Britton and Seattle's Michael Pineda. It was a glimpse of the next generation. As Buck Showalter said when asking how to pronounce Pineda's name, "I have a feeling people are going know his name."
Arrieta and Britton are both very even-keeled, steady competitors. You don't see the heady emotions that can bog down young pitchers with these two. They don't act like they belong, they both just sort of know they belong. That confidence (some call it swagger) will make them successful.
Arrieta told me you have to have that cockiness and swagger to pitch in the American League. I agree; I think all great athletes have that "you can't beat me" attitude.
When Brian Matusz returns in the coming weeks, we will see a trio of young pitchers who hold their heads high. Having two solid lefties like Matusz and Britton in the rotation will be an asset the O's haven't seen since the days of Scott McGregor and Mike Flanagan, and before them, Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally.
According to the man behind the plate, Matt Wieters, two tough lefties in any rotation are valuable.
"It's big, because you can mix them in between some right-handers to where the other team's lineup might be changing everyday and hopefully keep them out of getting into a groove," Wieters said.