The Baltimore Orioles are a franchise that has learned some fairly severe lessons when it comes to rushing top pitching prospects, as Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta could all attest to.
Arguably none of them have disappointed more, however, than Zach Britton.
No, not because Britton was the most talented of the bunch, but because of all of them, he was the one who came out of the gate looking like a world-beater, having posted a sterling 2.35/1.12 ERA after his first 10 starts as a rookie in 2011.
Taking the mound for the first time in 2013 following an injury-plagued ineffective campaign last year, Britton still doesn’t look any more impressive than when his rookie season collapsed on him. He can thank the Seattle Mariners for the rude welcome, I suppose. Or specifically Michael Saunders, whose leadoff home run off the 25-year old’s second pitch of the season set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Giving up 10 hits and a pair of walks while striking out just a pair over his six innings of work, Britton found himself in trouble more often than not in most innings, and the six runs he yielded was about the requisite amount of damage, considering the performance.
Most of those came in a four-hit, three run sixth, but the lefty had to work around baserunners in all but one of his innings. That isn’t so unusual for pitch-to-contact, ground ball types, but when four of the 10 hits were of the extra bases variety, well, you see the results.
Still, it’s not as though this was a total loss for the Orioles. The young groundballer did wind up getting his share of ground balls (10-3 GO-AO) on a 87.2 percent contact rate, and his fastball was sitting comfortably at the low 90s (92.1 mph average according to PITCHf/x).
Though Britton did get hammered, he also lasted through his 101-pitch outing even after the mess in the sixth, which is a consolation in itself given his shoulder problems last year.
Now, if only he could get fewer of his grounders to be hammered …