BALTIMORE — Tearing his Achilles in December, Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton was initially set to be on the 60-day disabled list until after All-Star Break in July. After his surgery, his prognosis continued to improve and after a few weeks, it was believed that he would return to the 25-man roster in June. That day has come.
Britton has returned from his Achilles injury, with outfielder Colby Rasmus going to the 60-day disabled list, to make space for Britton on the 40-man roster and right-handed reliever Pedro Araujo moving to the 10-day disabled list, to make space for Britton on the 25-man roster.
As a starter, Britton initially struggled. He began his MLB career in 2011, pitching to a 11-11 record, 4.61 ERA and 1.451 WHIP in 154.1 innings pitched. He would start in two more years, combining for a 7-6 record, 5.02 ERA and 1.615 WHIP in 100.1 innings during the 2012-2013 seasons. His fate would change in the 2014 season, his first full year as a reliever.
Beginning the year as Baltimore’s long reliever, Britton was able to take over the closer’s role from Tommy Hunter and deliver 37 saves. This was en route to an Orioles AL East title and American League Divisional Series win over the Detroit Tigers in 2014. Britton’s ERA of 1.65 and WHIP of 0.904 in 76.1 innings was just the beginning of his reign as one of the most dominant closers in baseball.
In 2015, Britton continued his torrid pace of strong pitching performances, pitching to a 1.91 ERA, 0.990 WHIP and 36 saves in 65.2 innings pitched. He was also named to his first All-Star Game of his career. The next season, Britton would have one of the best seasons that a closer had ever seen.
Following up his strong 2015 campaign, Britton blew out the candles on many team’s comeback attempts, leading the MLB with 47 saves. He held a 0.54 ERA and 0.836 WHIP in 67.0 innings pitched. The then 28-year old closer was named to his second consecutive All-Star appearance, finished fourth in the AL Cy Young Award race and 11th in the AL MVP race. Unfortunately for Britton, the injury bug would strike twice during 2017 – once during the regular season and another time during the offseason.
Struggling with a forearm strain and a bad knee, Britton saw his numbers in 2017. Only pitching in 37.1 innings, Britton had an ERA of 2.89 and a WHIP of 1.527 and pitched in only 38 games. On December 20, 2017, Britton tore his Achilles tendon.
During the 2017 season, Baltimore dangled Britton in a possible trade. His arm garnered the intrigue of the Houston Astros, who would become 2017 World Series Champions. Unfortunately for the Orioles, they were not able to work out a deal with the Astros for Britton’s services.
Now, he makes his return.
Britton is in the final year of his arbitration eligibility and is making $12 million. If he pitches well for Baltimore, he could become a trade chip for a team that has taken up the cellar in the division. Britton has the capability to be one of the league’s best relievers when healthy and could prove helpful in rebuilding the Orioles’ farm system for the future.
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(Photo Credit: Greg Fiume/Getty Images North America)