Britton shakes off nerves in solid debut

Britton shakes off nerves in solid debut

Britton shakes off nerves in solid debut
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Orioles top pitching prospect Zach Britton swears he doesn't get nervous, but the 23-year-old lefty couldn't help himself on Wednesday afternoon.

"I was nervous as hell," Britton said of his first time facing a Major League lineup -- a two-inning outing against a Philadelphia Phillies lineup with five regulars. "It was all nerves out there, so I'm just happy it went well."

Following starter Chris Tillman, Britton threw two scoreless frames, allowing two hits -- one of which was a bunt single -- and also recording a big strikeout of cleanup hitter Ryan Howard. Britton was charged with a wild pitch in the third inning and received two trips to the mound from catcher Jake Fox during the 33-pitch outing.

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"He told me a funny joke actually," Britton said of his batterymate's visit. "I think he wanted to settle me down. He knew I was excited to be out there and stuff like that. I don't even know what joke it was, because I wasn't laughing. I thought we were having a serious conversation, and he was like, 'You can laugh a little bit.'"

Manager Buck Showalter didn't mind hearing about Britton's anxiousness and said he'd prefer that a young pitcher has a healthy respect for the game and what pitching in the Major Leagues means.

"I'm not much in the too-cool-for-school thing," Showalter said. "I feel good that the guy respects that. But I couldn't tell [he was nervous] a whole lot. I was impressed with him."

Britton, who was still unwinding from his exhibition debut while meeting with the media, said his less-than-desirable command was largely a result of overthrowing and was confident his second outing will go smoother.

"I threw quite a bit of pitches and not a whole lot of strikes," said Britton, the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season. "But I got some ground balls, which at least shows me that [my] stuff is going to do what it did in the Minors. I'm still going to get ground balls, which is always a good thing."

Four of Britton's six outs came on the ground, although Howard's strikeout was the highlight of the outing. After getting some good movement on his first fastball to Howard, Britton missed on a few sliders before choosing to go right after him, sending a full-count fastball into Fox's mitt.

"It felt pretty good to see him swing through that last one because it was up in the zone," Britton said. "But thank God he missed, right?"

Given the Orioles' schedule, Britton is on track to make his first career Grapefruit League start his next turn through the rotation, as the O's have a split-squad contest Monday against division rivals Boston and New York.

"He's got that nice mix of respect for the people who are here and what it is and what it takes, but also some confidence in what he brings," Showalter said of Britton, who is a long shot to break camp but remains a big part of the organization's future. "So far, so good."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.