Zack Britton has successfully completed the first of what sounds like it’ll be several Major League rehabilitation assignments at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater. He faced four batters, and induced three groundouts.
“Overall, it was pretty good,” he said. “I wasn’t sharp where I want to be, but it was similar to maybe my first (outing) in spring. The arm feels good, I’m excited to get out there with fans. I haven’t pitched in front of fans in a whole year. So it’s just getting used to everything, wearing a different jersey, things like that. So I’m looking forward to polishing up my pitches as I move forward in the rehab.
On an unseasonably chilly day — temperatures hovered in the low 50’s all afternoon, not long after a steady rain broke just in time for the game to start as scheduled — Britton threw 18 pitches (10 strikes) and used his usual sinker/curveball mix. The sinker sat between 90-92 miles per hour, while the curveball was steady at 78.
Building up velo as he goes — that sinker has averaged 95 in the big leagues — is “definitely a part of it” as his rehab process continues here.
“Getting my velocity as close to where I can for when I come back to New York, there’s definitely different stages in spring training,” Britton said.
“That first outing, the second outing, and then there’s gradual build-ups. Even when I was younger and throwing my hardest, it’s just been a gradual build-up. I feel good, I feel like there’s room in there for me to throw harder, it’s just getting my body in the right place to do that. I think when I was younger, I’d just come out and throw as hard as I can, and now I understand that getting a feel for your delivery is more important than throwing hard at this stage for me.”
Facing three of the consensus Top 100 prospects in baseball — Austin Martin, Jordan Groshans and Gabriel Moreno — as well as New Hampshire’s talented three-hole hitter, Otto Lopez, the big league All-Star induced three groundouts, allowing only Lopez to reach via an infield single.
Britton is uncertain about how many more outings he’ll need in Somerset before he returns to the big leagues.
“I think that’s kind of a moving target,” he said. “In spring, inning-wise, I’d be anywhere from seven to ten, and I don’t think I’ll need that much here. I think the next couple outings will give me a really good understanding of what I need. It’s hard after the first one, but two, three, four innings in, I’ll have a good idea of when I’ll be back after that. Right now, it’s a little too hard to say. But, when I come into New York tomorrow and do my rehab, I’ll talk to Mike Schuk and get the next step of the schedule. I think we just wanted to see how I responded after this outing. I would have loved for it to be a little bit warmer, but I feel great. I’m responding well when it’s cold, I think that’s a really good sign going forward.”
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