SARASOTA, Fla. – Zach Britton’s spring with the Orioles came to an abrupt end on Saturday when the Orioles optioned the 25-year-old left hander to Triple-A Norfolk.
“It’s disappointing, but I think you understand it’s a fierce competition. Guys are throwing better than me,” Britton said. “I have some things I need to get better at.”
In 2011, Britton was the Orioles’ leading winner with 11, and last year he was slowed by a sore left shoulder and began the season on the disabled list. He ended up with a 5-3 record and a 5.07 ERA.
“There are some adjustments that need to be made. It’s easier to do it down there than at the big league level,” Britton said.
“Hopefully spend a month down there, get everything straightened out, and then help the team. I feel like that’s more beneficial than starting with the team, struggling, not throwing right.”.
Britton had a nightmarish start on Wednesday when he allowed five runs and seven hits in 1 2/3 innings against Toronto. He had a 6.10 ERA in five games.
He hoped to contend for the fifth starter’s spot, but Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Steve Johnson have all outpitched him. Manager Buck Showalter also has Jair Jurrjens and Rule 5 draft pick T.J. McFarland under consideration.
“Jake’s been throwing the ball well. It’s a competition, and he definitely proven that he deserves it. He and [Matusz] are throwing the ball well. You can’t take it away from those guys,” Britton said.
“Mentally, I don’t feel like I was ready to be with the team. I’m sure they saw that.”
Britton said he didn’t think the odds were against him in the competition.
“When I’ve been healthy in the big leagues, I’ve had success, and I felt like physically, I was right where I needed to be,” Britton said.
“I know that Buck sees everything. He understands that, hey, whether the results are good for this guy or not, maybe he’s not where he needs to be,” Britton said.
The Orioles also optioned infielders Jonathan Schoop and Yamaico Navarro to the Tides and assigned right-handed pitcher Daniel McCutchen to minor league camp.
Schoop was 3-for-4 on Friday with a two-run home run against Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte. He missed nearly a month because he played with Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, but Showalter was extremely impressed with watching Schoop on television in the WBC and in his limited opportunities in camp. He may play either shortstop or second at Norfolk.
Navarro, who was acquired from Pittsburgh last November, and little chance to make the team as a utility infielder, but he remains on the 40-man roster for now.
McCutchen has been converted to a three-quarters type pitcher in recent weeks, and the Orioles hope that he could help them later in the season.
The moves leave the Orioles with 40 players, including 11 non-roster invitees.