Britton improving, ready for first bullpen session

Britton improving, ready for first bullpen session

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Zach Britton, who has been dealing with left shoulder inflammation, is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session this spring on Friday, and the organization remains cautiously optimistic that the 24-year-old will be able to compete for a spot in the Orioles' rotation.

"Five weeks, I really don't think that's a rush," pitching coach Rick Adair said of Britton's timetable to be able to break camp. "If he stays healthy with the progress he's made and he's throwing the ball well, he can definitely be ready to help us. But that's something he will determine from a health standpoint and a performance standpoint."

Britton threw approximately 120 pitches at varying distances on flat ground Tuesday. Britton will long toss on Friday, and if everything goes OK, he'll get on the mound and throw 20-25 pitches. The main emphasis remains on him being healthy and not trying to speed things up to be on pace with the other pitchers this early in spring.

"Be healthy Opening Day is kind of what [rehab coordinator] Chris Correnti has been preaching," Britton said. "He's been telling me the picture is five weeks. 'Let's be ready in five weeks, not let's be ready for March 5 when these [spring] games start.' And they are going to take it slow. I know he said we are going to make sure we do long toss [Friday] before I push it off the mound. If I don't feel good with long toss, why would I even bother throwing off a mound? They are making sure everything's perfect so I don't have any issues."

Assuming Friday's session goes well, Britton will throw another bullpen session Monday, and Adair said the organization will reevaluate him after that. Right now, Britton has been focusing on building up his arm strength with a large volume of pitches at various distances -- getting back to 120 feet -- and his shoulder has responded favorably.

"There's normal soreness from throwing, but not anything serious," said Britton, who had been experiencing discomfort and inflammation in his shoulder since going on the disabled list in August. "[Lately] I get a little sore from throwing, and the next day [I] feel great. And that's what you want to see."

Adair estimated Britton would need about four or five bullpen sessions, including throwing to hitters, before getting into a game situation. Adair maintained that there's still enough time for him to get enough spring innings.

"I personally wouldn't put him as behind," manager Buck Showalter said. "I look at behind as not an option to break with us, but right now, if he stays on this plan, he's an option to break with us if he pitches enough to make our club."

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.