SARASOTA, Fla. — Orioles pitcher Zach Britton will not need surgery on his ailing left shoulder, but a process to help lessen the inflammation could sideline the 24-year-old left-hander up to six weeks.
It means he will miss Opening Day and potentially all of April.
"I'm not going to rush back and have the same issue crop back up," said Britton, who has been dealing with the inflammation off and on since August. "It's just a process that I've got to take. I'm frustrated with it, but if it's going to help me pitch and have a long career, that's the most important thing. Not necessarily being ready to pitch in April."
Britton flew to Pensacola, Fla., on Wednesday morning to meet with renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who reviewed Britton's MRI and said the shoulder exhibited "typical wear and tear of a pitcher" but no significant tears, Britton said.
Instead of getting cortisone for the shoulder, Britton agreed to undergo two injections of platelet-rich plasma, which Andrews recommended because it is a more natural way for the body to heal itself, Britton said. However, the recovery may not be as quick, so Britton likely will not do any baseball activities for seven to 10 days and could be out six weeks, as opposed to the projected two weeks after cortisone shots.
"I was obviously up for it, so we went ahead and had two injections of that today. It takes a little while for it to kick in, so it's not going to necessarily be a two-week process," Britton said. "It could take up to six weeks to heal, and it just depends on my body and how fast I can get the inflammation out of my shoulder."
Britton went 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA in 28 starts with the Orioles as a rookie last season and was initially projected to be in this year's rotation. Instead, he will start the season on the disabled list and then go on an injury rehab stint at some point.
"We're gonna slow him down again," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We'll shut him down for a little bit and then get it going again. But good news, structurally, he is in good shape."
Hunter pitches in 'A' game
Tommy Hunter's sense of humor was never affected while he was dealing with lower back soreness that limited him to minor-league outings this spring.
And that humor was on display again Wednesday after he made his first appearance of the spring in a big-league game — a five-inning, two-run performance against the Toronto Blue Jays. At times, he struggled with his command, throwing just 44 of his 74 pitches for strikes.
When asked what he needed to do to be better his next time out, Hunter quipped: "Maybe throwing strikes, starting off hitters with strikes. That's probably the first goal."
Hunter gave up five hits, including a homer to J.P. Arencibia, with two walks and two strikeouts. Most importantly, he said his back feels fine and he believes he'll have no problem being ready for the start of the regular season.
"I downplay it a whole lot, I guess," Hunter said. "I wasn't worried too much about it. I was able to throw with whatever it was, but it's gone now and I felt good."
Duquette focusing on current players
Even with the minor-league signing of left-hander Dontrelle Willis on Wednesday, the Orioles will continue to monitor the waiver wire for eligible players. But their focus is more on what is currently in Sarasota.
"We still have a number of players in our camp that we need to evaluate and see where they fit in on our team and, concurrently, we'll be looking at opportunities outside our organization," Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. "But we have got some more work to do on our own people here."
Although the situation at backup catcher is not resolved — with Taylor Teagarden dealing with a back injury and Ronny Paulino attempting to get into playing shape — Duquette doesn't foresee claiming a catcher on waivers.
"Our focus on our catchers is to get Teagarden healthy and to evaluate Paulino," he said. "It is going to be hard to pick up another catcher this time of year."
Teagarden is a week removed from having an epidural in his back to relieve the discomfort caused by a tear in the ligament that supports a disk in his back. And though he said he is feeling better, he has not resumed baseball activities.
"I'm just doing the protocol of the trainers," he said. "I am just taking it slow and they are happy with the way I respond, the way I feel when I come to the clubhouse. Basically I am just doing some back exercises right now. Not doing a lot of on-field activities. I'll keep taking it slowly. I don't want to aggravate anything."
Teagarden has had five at-bats this spring, so it seems highly likely he will begin the season on the disabled list, but neither he nor Showalter is making that official yet.
Roberts still without timetable; watches from dugout
Second baseman Brian Roberts, who still has not appeared in a game this spring due to lingering concussion symptoms, has looked increasingly better in the batting cage in recent days, stinging more line drives.
However, he said he still has no set timetable for playing in a game and has no idea where he'll be when the Orioles break camp in early April.
"I really haven't sat down and discussed it with anybody," Roberts said. "At some point I will, but I haven't really talked about it at all yet."
For the second time this spring, Roberts sat in the home dugout Wednesday and watched several innings of an exhibition game. It's another step he is taking to again get acclimated with the speed and trimmings of the game.
"It was good to be out there and see some game-speed stuff and track the ball and get used to fans and that sort of environment again," he said.
Four pitchers cut
After Wednesday's game, the Orioles sent four pitchers to minor league camp: right-handers Miguel Socolovich, Willie Eyre, Jon Link and Oscar Villarreal. Socolovich posted a 5.06 ERA in five games before being limited by a groin injury. Eyre pitched in just three games (3.38 ERA) due to an early-camp groin strain. Link pitched in five games with a 4.26 ERA. Villarreal allowed two runs in six innings (3.00 ERA).
Orioles lose to Blue Jays, 6-3
The Orioles took a 3-2 lead into the ninth Wednesday, but reliever Pedro Strop unraveled and the Toronto Blue Jays scored four in the ninth to win. Strop, who had allowed just one run in five previous innings this spring, gave up two hits, a walk, four runs (one earned) threw a wild pitch and committed a key error. Brian Bocock's two-run single against Stu Pomeranz — who replaced Strop — put the game out of reach. Adam Jones homered for the Orioles and Endy Chavez reached base three times.
Around the horn
Ryan Flaherty entered Wednesday's sixth inning at first base. The Rule 5 draftee has now played every position this spring but pitcher, catcher and center field. … Alfredo Simon (groin) said he is feeling better and hopes to pitch later this week. He was excused from camp Tuesday to get his passport renewed in Miami. … Darren O'Day (groin), Tsuyoshi Wada (elbow) and Jason Berken (hamstring) are all scheduled to pitch in a minor league game Thursday. … According to Baseball America, the Orioles signed 29-year-old infielder Josh Barfield to a minor league deal. He hasn't played in the majors since 2009.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times