Zach Britton

O’s lefty Zach Britton shuts down Rangers, moves to 2-0

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Early season injuries to Justin Duchscherer and Brian Matusz have caused the Orioles only a minor headache. Why? Because young left-hander Zach Britton probably wouldn’t have opened the year in the major leagues otherwise.

Britton, 23, spun another gem on Saturday night in the second half of a doubleheader against the hot-hitting Rangers, tossing 7.2 scoreless innings while allowing just four hits. He struck out two, induced 15 groundballs, and moved to 2-0 on the young season.

Britton fanned six batters in his first start last week against the Rays, surrendering only three hits and just one earned run over six frames. His ERA now sits at 0.66 and his WHIP is a cool 0.95.

Baseball America ranked Britton as the game’s 28th most promising prospect this winter after he posted a 2.70 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 153.1 innings last season between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.

With good velocity on his fastball and a sharp slider-changeup arsenal, Britton has the appearance of a pitcher who should now be in the big leagues for good. He’ll face the Yankees this Thursday at Yankee Stadium.

UPDATE: Not wanting to expose Britton to Yankee Stadium just yet, the Orioles have pushed the lefty’s next start back one day. He’ll start at Camden Yards against the Indians on Friday.

Josh Johnson retires from baseball

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Josh Johnson #55 of the San Diego Padres poses during Picture Day on February 21, 2014 at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.

Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.

Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.

Report: Angels close to a multi-year deal with Luis Valbuena

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 08:  Luis Valbuena #18 of the Houston Astros hits a three run walkoff home run in the ninth inning to defeat the Oakland Athletics 10-9 at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.

Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.

Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.