Orioles closer Zach Britton could return to the mound as a starter in 2018, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com says. Britton suffered an unexpected setback earlier this week after rupturing his right Achilles tendon and will likely spend between 4-8 months recovering from surgery. How that affects his marketability as a trade chip remains to be seen, but Kubatko notes that the team is highly unlikely to release him before he hits free agency next year and might consider reassigning him to the rotation, pending a full recovery.
Britton, 30, got his start with the Orioles as a starting pitcher back in 2011. Over three seasons, he racked up an 18-17 record in 46 starts and a 4.86 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 5.9 SO/9 in 250 innings. By 2014, the southpaw had made a full conversion to the bullpen, where he assumed the closing role and quickly became one of the club’s most valuable relievers.
Given Britton’s history of injuries, including the latest blow to his Achilles, the Orioles may not want to put additional strain on his right leg by increasing his workload when he returns next summer. Still, Kubatko insists that the possibility of converting the left-hander back to the rotation is one that has been floated by the team in recent months and one that Britton “wasn’t adamant about resisting,” though it’s clearly not the role he’d prefer. For the time being, however, the Orioles are more likely to focus their efforts on retaining Britton and may even be entertaining the idea of an extension for the oft-injured closer.