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.