Zack Britton surgery set; likely out until at least May

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TAMPA, Fla  — New York Yankees left-hander Zack Britton is scheduled for surgery to remove a bone chip from his pitching elbow and seems likely to be out until at least May.

Britton will not be able to throw for several weeks while the incision heals after the operation by Yankees head team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Britton will then need to build arm strength.

“It’s going to get taken care of and I’ll be able to pitch this year and help the team. And so that’s the most important thing,” he said Wednesday. “Could I rehab through it and possibly come back and it wouldn’t impact me? There was a chance. But we like the chances better of me coming back this season and pitching at a high level if I just got it removed now. If this was during the season, I’m not sure surgery would be the decision.”

Left-hander Aroldis Chapman is the Yankees’ closer, and manager Aaron Boone said he will mix and match during the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

“It’s definitely going to create a hole there for us,” Chapman said through a translator,

Boone mentioned options as right-hander Chad Green, side-arming right-hander Darren O’Day, right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga and left-hander Justin Wilson, who allowed a home run to Jared Oliva and a tying grand slam to Brian Goodwin in the sixth inning of Wednesday night’s 6-5 exhibition win against Pittsburgh.

“Just missing in some danger zones,” Boone said. “But I thought first time out it was coming out as it should.”

Chapman is suspended for the first two games of the season by Major League Baseball for throwing a 101 mph fastball near the head of Tampa Bay’s Mike Brosseau on Sept. 1.

“Obviously, Zack’s so important to our team and the back end of our bullpen. So it’s certainly a blow,” Boone said. “But it’s also one that we know he’s going to be back and, especially again in a weird season, maybe in a way, this can be something that allows him to stay fresher throughout the season.”

Britton’s start of spring training was slowed as he recovered from COVID-19, which he suspects he contracted while at a hospital for his wife to give birth.

“It wiped me out pretty good for about 10 days,” he said. “Lost about 18 pounds, which could be good, I guess, right? But I wasn’t looking to lose 18 pounds and it happened quickly, so that’s not good on your body and puts pressure in a lot of places.”

Britton’s weight loss surprised him.

“It showed me how serious this can be,” he said.

Because of the recovery, he had not pitched in any exhibition games. His arm felt sore following a bullpen session Sunday, so he contacted director of sports performance Michael Schuk.

Britton said an MRI showed that ligaments and tendons in the elbow looked great.

“I didn’t think it was going to be anything serious.” he said. “I mean, it’s really not that serious in the scheme of things, but it needs to be taken care of.”

Britton, 33, is a two-time All-Star who was 1-2 with a 1.89 ERA and eight saves in 20 appearances during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He filled in as closer for the first 3 1/2 weeks while Chapman missed 21 games recovering from COVID-19.

Zack Britton’s season over, TJ surgery comeback out of time

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Zack Britton‘s season is over, his comeback from Tommy John surgery cut short after just three relief appearances for the New York Yankees.

New York put the 34-year-old left-hander on the 60-day injured list and selected the contract of right-hander Jacob Barnes from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Britton was removed after throwing a tiebreaking wild pitch in a 2-1 loss to Baltimore, an outing that lasted just nine pitches. The two-time All-Star had Tommy John surgery on Sept. 8, 2021, and made eight minor league injury rehabilitation appearances starting Aug. 24 and three big league appearances beginning Sept. 24. He threw 36 pitches to nine batters with a 13.50 ERA, six walks and one strikeout.

“Kind of running out of time here and having a little bit of fatigue last night, it’s like one of those things, you don’t want to power through that and reach for more and then do some damage as you’re coming back,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s in a good spot heading into the offseason.”

Britton had hoped to be able to help the Yankees in the postseason. He is eligible for free agency after the World Series.

“It’s just that final sharpness,” Boone said. “At this point in the season, just kind of up against it there. But he worked his tail off to put himself in this position and give himself an opportunity and certainly admire that.”

Barnes, 32, started the season with Detroit and was released on June 18 after going 3-1 with a 6.10 ERA in 22 relief appearances. He struck out 10 and walked nine in 20 2/3 innings.

Barnes signed a minor league contract with Seattle, made four relief appearances for Triple-A Tacoma, then was brought up by the Mariners and designated for assignment two days later without playing in a game. He refused an outright assignment, signed back with the Tigers and made five appearances at Triple-A Toledo. Released by the Mud Hens, he signed with Scranton on Aug. 30 and had a 2.25 ERA in 10 games for the RailRiders.

Boone said reliever Clay Holmes will not go on the IL after receiving a cortisone injection for inflammation in his right rotator cuff. If the Yankees had put Holmes on the IL, he would not be available for the Division Series.

After playing his first game since Sept. 4 and going 0 for 3, DJ LeMahieu said his injured right second toe felt fine. He is in a 2-for-41 slide.

“It felt good to play again,” LeMahieu said. “I felt like a baseball player.”

Matt Carpenter, sidelined since breaking his left toot on Aug. 8, ran on the field and will be among players reporting to training camp for Double-A Somerset, where there will be eight or nine pitchers. Boone anticipates Carpenter being available for the postseason as a pinch-hitter or designated hitter.

Right-hander Frankie Montas, sidelined since Sept. 16 by inflammation in his pitching shoulder, has resumed throwing.

“I don’t know about the Division Series,” Boone said, “more likely beyond.”