We are starting to learn how Zach Britton holds up when everything doesn't go his way. Every young pitcher has moments where the sun doesn't shine so bright and the clouds open up. Literally that happened Friday night as Britton battled through 5 1/3 innings of rain-drenched baseball.
After giving up three runs during a 30-pitch second inning, the rookie steadied the ship, allowing just two runners to reach base the rest of his outing. Britton walked Ben Zobrist leading off the third inning and Elliot Johnson reached on a Britton throwing error in the fifth.
Britton visibly didn't want to leave the game. That's a good sign. He's a competitor.
For the record, Britton received zero run support and left with the Orioles trailing, 3-0.
The last time we saw Britton struggle was April 15th in Cleveland. The lefty gave up three runs in the third inning. He would last six innings, giving up a total of five earned runs. After that outing Britton won his next three games. It was his first test in resilience.
Friday night won't be the last time Britton runs into trouble. Typically young pitchers get hit around more as more big leaguers see them at the plate. Scouting reports begin to circulate and the next test will be how Britton makes adjustments to hitters making adjustments to him.
My guess is he'll handle it well. I really like his poise and I think he's mature for 23 years old.
Brian Roberts told me he hasn't been surprised by Britton's success. He said the minute he saw the lefty throw in spring training he knew he had to be a part of the club "now." Roberts was more than impressed with his mid 90s fastball/low 80s changeup combination and knew it would be effective getting big league hitters out.
As Britton continues to develop, we could see the O's rotation really solidify over the next few months. Couple the rookie with a healthy Brian Matusz and we could see two very effective young lefties emerge. Add in Jeremy Guthrie, the No. 1 starter, and Jake Arrieta, whose stuff has been as good as any lately, and good things might start to happen for a rotation that had a lot of question marks coming into the season.
On a different note, Buck Showalter commented today about Michael Gonzalez returning to his old rocking motion windup. Gonzalez said pitching coach Mark Connor told him to get back to "doing you," so the lefty started rocking away this past road trip.
So far, so good. Gonzalez has posted three consecutive scoreless outings, holding batters hitless and striking out five in those appearances. Showalter says do what you have to do.
"He's been healthy on and off for thirty something years, pitching that way. It's kind of like Kevin Appier. For years you heard people say 'oh don't touch him, don't trade for him, don't sign him. His delivery and mechanics are terrible and he pitched for what seemed like 150 years,' " Showalter said. "I think sometimes we smooth guys out too much. We kind of lose their effectiveness. You gotta be careful there ... You've got to have something that's a little deceptive, something that's a different look for them. There's always a fine line that pitching coaches are walking; the health risk and the ability to get someone out."
Gonzalez told me he'd rather have a shorter career and be effective than try to preserve his arm and, in the process, end up being an average lefty.