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Bullpen role looking likely for Britton

Bullpen role looking likely for Britton

TAMPA, Fla. -- Manager Buck Showalter said there were 16 scouts in attendance for Wednesday's game, as it's no secret the Orioles have a wealth of out-of-option players -- 13 to be exact -- including several pitchers.

One of those pitchers attracting notable interest is lefty Zach Britton, who came into camp competing -- at least on paper -- for a spot in the starting rotation. But Britton has pitched three times in the past week, setting up what looks to be a relief role for the Orioles.

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"We're still going to look to get him multiple innings so that if something happens between now and the end of spring, he's an option for us as a starter, also," Showalter said. "So we're still viewing him as a starter at this point, so you're right. It does take on the appearance that [Britton is a reliever] right now. … I think everyone is going to have to start showing their hand here shortly."

Britton has pitched well this spring, allowing one run on five hits and two walks over seven innings. The early spring emphasis has been on improving his command, and the sinkerballer has struck out seven, including two in one inning of work on Wednesday.

"You can look around and see who pretty much the starting five is going to be, barring injury," Britton said. "Obviously, you are still competing for the spot, just in case something does happen, you can fill in. But I want to make sure I'm ready to compete out of the bullpen to begin the season. I don't want to be that guy who they are still unsure of, [thinking] 'How is he going to react if he goes back-to-back days?' or, 'Is he just a long guy, or can we put him in the game and he can handle his own little bit?' So, I think these experiences are helping me so that I'm ready if I am in the bullpen to start the season."

Britton said the biggest adjustment is figuring out a schedule to get ready to pitch more often, and he's leaned on guys like Tommy Hunter -- who was a starter his whole career before last season -- to help him.

"It's a good experience, you learn a lot about your body," said Britton. "About what you need and don't need. And I think that's one thing that I'm taking away that I really like about it."

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.

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