MINNEAPOLIS -- Left-hander Zach Britton will make his long-awaited season debut on Tuesday against the Twins, and the 24-year-old said Monday it will probably feel more like Opening Day than a mid-July game.
"I feel a lot more confident going into this year, because I know I've prepared the right way and my delivery's where it needs to be," said Britton, who started the season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury before being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on June 6. "There's a lot of confidence from that aspect coming into the start."
That confidence comes from a long rehab process, which began with Britton stripping it back down to basics and working with pitching rehab coordinator Chris Correnti on adding flexibility to lengthen his stride and take some of the pressure off his left arm.
Britton also worked with director of pitching development Rick Peterson and switched back to standing on the third-base side of the mound, which is where he was during the first half of his rookie season last year, before moving to the first base side.
Britton had a first-half ERA of 4.05 -- including a 4-1 record with a 2.84 in his first five April starts -- before tiring considerably down the stretch. He landed on the DL with left shoulder soreness in August, posting a 5.76 ERA after the All-Star break.
Britton showed up this spring still dealing with the left shoulder soreness and he underwent platelet-rich plasma treatment at the end of March before starting a rehab program.
"[Peterson said] 'Hey I'm not going to get you back to where you were overnight. It's not going to happen. You've got to stick with it,'" Britton said. "That's what I did. That's why I think you saw the starts [for Norfolk] getting better as I kind of bought into the plan and got consistent with it.
"I have a routine every day. When I show up to the park I have something I'm going to get better at. The main focus is just repeating my delivery, and there are drills I can do every single day. Last year, I didn't have a great routine. And it kind of showed by the end of last season."
Tuesday's start will be Britton's first in the Majors since last September 27, when he went 4 1/3 innings against the Red Sox. He has pitched more than six innings just once in his previous six starts for the Orioles, and with the injury to Jason Hammel (right knee surgery) and ineffectiveness of starters Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter, have given Britton -- along with Monday's starter Chris Tillman -- an opportunity to help stabilize the rotation.
"It obviously is an opportunity, but I think we're just focused on each outing and showing that we can pitch up here obviously, but [also] be successful," Britton said. "It's not just one outing or two outings. During the course of a season, you have to be effective and I think with what we've been doing in the Minors with our delivery and having a good process, it's going to benefit us a lot."