Britton expects to miss start of O's season

Britton expects to miss start of O's season

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles left-hander Zach Britton continues to deal with left shoulder inflammation, the latest case likely costing the 24-year-old a chance at being part of the Opening Day rotation.

"Personally, it would be tough for me to be ready to start the season," said Britton, who will see Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday morning for a second opinion on his shoulder.

"There's always that chance that you could be, but it's really hard for me to envision being ready for Opening Day, especially not facing Major League hitters or even going more than two innings [this spring]. Everything would have to go perfectly, so I don't think so."

Britton, who will travel to Pensacola, Fla., to see Andrews, was scratched from Monday's Minor League start because of inflammation that developed on Saturday night and said he just wants another look at the somewhat "head scratching" nature of his injury. The 24-year-old Britton -- who has been dealing with inflammation in the shoulder since August -- said it's been a frustrating spring for him, as the team tries to figure out what the exact issue is.

"We went over the MRI again [on Sunday], and still, from the pictures, everything looks good in my shoulder -- no tears, nothing," said Britton, who was reexamined by team orthopedist John Wilckens after calling head athletic trainer Richie Bancells on Saturday night upon starting to feel shoulder discomfort. "Something in there is causing inflammation, and it's just trying to figure out what it is."

Britton arrived in Sarasota early this spring to continue his offseason rehab program, and the Orioles were cautiously optimistic that he would be able to compete for a spot in their starting rotation during camp. He threw two innings in a Minor League game last week, and there were tentative plans -- if he had made it through Monday's game -- for Britton to make his Grapefruit League debut at some point this week. But after throwing Saturday's bullpen session, the familiar inflammation crept back up, and Britton called Bancells a few hours later.

"It's been really frustrating," Britton said of his spring. "Everyone's going, 'Your MRI looks great; your arm strength looks good.' I've had two, three, four weeks of good progress, and all of a sudden, it comes right back.

"If it was a tear, we would know how to treat it. We just don't know what it is, and it is frustrating to treat it, because we are going to try a couple things now. ... If it was the season, definitely, I could be on a medication and try to throw through it, but at this point, there's no reason to push it and wind up with the same issue a month or two into the season."

Britton received treatment on his left shoulder on Monday morning, and the plan right now is to rest and see how his arm responds. Britton -- who hadn't had any shoulder issues in his career until experiencing this bout of inflammation -- said the good news is that his velocity and command haven't been affected by the injury, and the organization is taking a cautious stance in trying to fully eliminate the inflammation, rather than just trying to manage it.

"If I'm not ready, then I'll [go to extended spring camp] or Triple-A to start the season," said Britton. "But it's beneficial to get everything down now, rather than have this issue creep back up a month or two into the year and have to go on the 15-day disabled list. I don't want to have to deal with that."

After jumping out to a great start, Britton tired down the stretch last season, landing on the DL with shoulder inflammation in August and ending his rookie season with an 11-11 record and a 4.61 ERA across 28 starts. The hope is that he can avoid a similar fate this year by getting healthy and staying strong throughout the season.

"As of right now, I'm going to take the cautious stance of I'd rather be ready middle of April, end of April to throw the whole season than start the season with the team and all of a sudden two weeks, three weeks later, we are dealing with this situation again," he said. "I just want to take care of it right now, and if it costs me a few weeks, so be it.

"My goal is just try to be healthy right now and get back as soon as I can. I don't want to be on the disabled list, I want to pitch. That's why we play this game -- I want to be out there competing."

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.