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Britton hopes to be late-inning alternative in bullpen

Britton hopes to be late-inning alternative in bullpen

BALTIMORE -- For the first time since showing up to Spring Training in early February, Zach Britton had no idea if he'd get into Monday's game or not. With just two career relief appearances under his belt entering the season, it's been an experiment for Britton, who passed his first test with two scoreless innings on Opening Day.

Britton, who said he's still experimenting with an exact pregame routine, has established a range of pitches he needs to hit to be ready, and the lefty is hoping he can earn manager Buck Showalter's trust to be a back-end bullpen guy.

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"I want to be a guy who is going to pitch late in games," Britton said of his role in the bullpen, which is largely undefined. "I don't want to be a guy who is only pitching when we're losing or way ahead. That's no fun. To me, I want to be a guy [Showalter] trusts out there to come out there with the game on the line and pitch well. So that's kind of my goal. We don't have defined roles, so maybe a little later on in the year, he has that trust in me to come in later in the game."

Britton fared well on Monday, getting all six outs following starter Chris Tillman on the ground, which is a sign his stuff is working.

"It'd be better to get ahead of the guys, but the sinker was really good," Britton said of his trademark pitch. "Got ground balls, and for me, that's what it's about. To minimize damage and throw a little more strikes, but to get ground balls is important."

Could the new job as a reliever have changed the way Britton, who has a 4.86 ERA in 46 Major League starts, attacks hitters?

"A lot of it is being healthy, being confident again. If I was starting, I'd have the same confidence with where I'm at physically, but definitely out of the bullpen, it makes you trust your stuff more," Britton said. "You don't have time to ease your way in. You got to go out there and be aggressive right away -- especially coming into a tight game like [Monday]."

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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