BALTIMORE — Orioles closer Zach Britton is again experiencing left forearm discomfort just days after being activated from the disabled list.
Manager Buck Showalter broke the news after Britton did not pitch the ninth inning and setup man Brad Brach instead collected his sixth save in Baltimore’s 4-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday. After pitching a scoreless inning in Thursday’s win at Boston, Britton woke up feeling discomfort and underwent an MRI on Friday evening.
The left-hander was originally placed on the DL with a left forearm strain on April 16.
“There’s some talk about what the next step to take with him [would be],” Showalter said. “He woke up this morning and felt some discomfort. He came in today. It got a little better as the day went on, but we’re trying to decide what our next step is.”
Britton was activated on Tuesday after missing more than two weeks of action. He completed two scoreless one-inning appearances in the Red Sox series, but his two-seam fastball lacked its typical sinking action, making it possible that his forearm was bothering him before Friday.
In the standout closer’s absence, Brach has gone 6-for-7 in save opportunities while veteran Darren O’Day has gone 1-for-2. Both blew saves in last weekend’s series with the New York Yankees, a reminder of how remarkable Britton’s 2016 campaign was in which he converted all 47 of his save opportunities and posted an amazing 0.54 ERA on his way to being named the American League reliever of the year.
The two-time All-Star closer underwent an initial MRI on April 21, but he and Showalter said that exam did not reveal any structural concerns with his left elbow. The Orioles hope the second test will not show any new damage, but the recurrence of the forearm discomfort is obviously concerning.
“How we proceed will probably be derived from those findings,” Showalter said. “We’ll just compare it to the one they just took [last month]. It’s the same – forearm strain – I think. That’s what I was told. I talked with Zach today and Dr. [Michael] Jacobs and Richie [Bancells] and Roger [McDowell] and just trying to gather all the information to decide which direction to go.”
Despite allowing 12 hits and four walks in nine innings this season, Britton has converted each of his five save chances.