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August 4, 2011

Zach Britton talks about his struggles before tonight's start

Rookie Zach Britton, who has allowed a combined 17 runs (13 earned) and didn’t made it out of the first inning in either of his last two big-league starts, will take the hill tonight against the Kansas City Royals.

He’s been trying to figure out what went so terribly wrong in Saturday’s bashing by the New York Yankees (nine runs, six earned in 1/3 inning).

“I was looking at my velocity, it’s still the same. My movement on the pitches isn’t the same,” Britton said. “So now I got to concentrate more on throwing to locations instead of just letting my sinker go.”

After that start, several veteran Orioles took Britton aside, including shortstop J.J. Hardy and closer Kevin Gregg.

Britton and Gregg spoke for about two hours Sunday, locked up in an intense conversation in one corner of the Yankee Stadium clubhouse.

“He’s had success as a starter and a reliever in the big leagues. So being able to pick his brain about certain things I need to do,” Britton said about the talk. “All the older guys I’ve talked to they feel like it’s more of a mental approach, a preparation thing for me.”

Britton, 23, hasn’t had much failure in his pro career – certainly not for years. Dealing with it now, after a 6-1 start to his big-league career, has been a real challenge.

“You can only get by on talent for so long in the big leagues, you’ve got guys who have played this game for 10 years. Especially in this division, the teams we are facing, you got to make adjustments. You got to be really prepared,” Britton said. “It’s not just preparing yourself the day before the start, but what are you doing two or three days before that start? I’m starting to develop a routine -- things that I’m going to do and have a reason to do.”

Getting hammered the way he did by the Yankees and Red Sox certainly can crush one’s confidence. But he is hoping he can make it a learning experience.

“I think sometimes it takes outings like the last two that really kind of hit you to say, ‘OK, I really do need a better plan, I need a better routine.’ And not just going out on the mound and expecting good results because you have good stuff.”

He’s been working a lot – and, really, talking a lot – with pitching coach Rick Adair. And he’s hoping tonight against Kansas City can help him turn things around.

“It’s tough because you feel like you are letting your team down. Especially Buck (Showalter) and Rick, they’ve put a lot of faith in me. And you feel like you are letting them down, and that’s tough,” Britton said. “You see now when you are struggling who comes to you and who kind of shies away, and I feel like most of the team has been really supportive. Through all of this, you learn about your teammates and yourself. I think there’s a lot of positives coming out of this, it s just a matter of time before I get over the hump.

“Hopefully it’s (Thursday).”

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (24)


It's great that Gregg is willing to try to help Britton, but just who is in charge of coaching the young pitchers? What if Gregg's advice conflicts with Adair's advice? Too much advice from differing sources can really confuse a young pitcher.

Who is in charge here?

I'm really not sure Kevin Gregg is the guy I'd want giving advice to rookie pitchers.

You keep doing that noble work {kinish]i mean dan.

We forget these kid pitchers are just that. Kids. Why wouldn't a 6-1 start give him the mindset that he could just walk out to the mound and magically mow everybody down? Clearly, he's growing up with the help of teammates like Hardy and Gregg. That's a good thing. This kid is going to be OK.

I love to read stuff like this and I quote
Getting hammered the way he did by the Yankees and Red Sox. (Britton) Kevin Gregg does have a lot of firsthand knowledge about getting hammered by the Red Sox and Yankees. The question should be, does Kevin Gregg have lot knowledge or experience in handling the Sox and Yankees, preferable handling them in 3 up and 3 down fashion. In my opinion, the answer to this is emphatically “NO”! In fact, I think this is clearly a case of the blind leading the blind. Ok, next topic and this could be a bit random, but what exactly does Matt Klentak do for the Orioles? Other than being another pretty face with an “Ivy League” education. What exactly is his value to the Oriole organization? I think he’s another one that jeopardizes it. In fact, I think the whole Oriole Upper Management jeopardize the Organization. I wouldn’t even put them in charge of the “Drunk Tank” on Saturday Night in Fells Point! So why they are leading the Orioles is beyond me.
None of this really happened last night, but it has been happening more and more as of late.
1.) Adam Jones and Nick Markakis air mailing throws. Are they just going thru the motions now that the season is out of hand
2.) What is up with Markakis and that bat of his? I am hearing more and more opposing team announcers say with regularity mind. This is “NOT” the Nick Markakis I remember.
3.) Lastly, if things go badly for Adam Jones during his at bat, he’s been using some choice words in expressing his frustration. I mean that’s no good! There’s woman and children attending the games. I think he needs to be a little more careful and set good example for everyone.
Oh and one more thing, why in the world did the Orioles keep Guthrie? He is on the verge of losing 20 games; I sincerely doubt he wants that distinction. Now, I know our pitching rotation isn’t the best, but why couldn’t MacPhail just give him a chance with a team who has a chance to make the playoffs. I think it was incredible selfish of the Orioles “NOT’ to trade Guthrie. That’s why I get upset with Jim Palmer. He is always complaining about someone or something about our beleaguered pitcher staff. I know they aren’t very good. I am an intelligent fan; I know when they are struggling. I am just tired of Jimbo adding insult to injury.

Maybe the better question is why isn't Jim Palmer the pitching coach? Or Greg Maddux? Or someone like them who has a track record of real success and really knows how to pitch and get hitters out? I understand that just because you can hit doesn't mean you can teach hitting (Ted Williams, for example), but pitching is so much more than just innate talent that it CAN be taught by those who have had great success.

Really interesting, Dan. This kind of teammate dynamic stuff is so often only guessed about.

Not surprised but still find it odd that people can find a reason to criticize Kevin Gregg or whomever for being a teammate, human being, mentor.

In my humble opinion, it is merely opposing team's adjusting to Britton's approach through advance scouting{an oxymoron when it comes to the Orioles' scouting} and Britton's failure to adjust to their adjustments. Teams are laying off his sinker, which is his most devastating pitch. This is the pitch that rode him to the big leagues and Zach is now confused on how to proceed. He has four pitches, he can change speeds on all of them and throw them for strikes. Once he learns to pitch within himself again, he will become effective.

Why isnt the pitching coach coaching instead if a relief pitcher?

oh yeah Rosenthal, women just cant handle the stuff jones says after a frustrating game or series of games. is this the 1950's? give me a break. You cant blame Jones for being REAL and HONEST about how this team is performing. He knows he's progressed little by little since being in the Bigs and holds himself to a high standard. And everyone needs to get off of Nick's back. He's one of the more solid players on the team and guess what? He's gonna be around a while. Yes, his homerun and rbi totals are down but he'll finish with a 300 avg as he's consistently proven. I still cant help but speculate he's been injured all season and just isnt fessing up.

onceawarrior...I wasn't trying to criticize Gregg for helping Britton. One thing that has really impressed me this season about Gregg is how loyal of a teammate he is, as evidenced by his working with younger players and the whole fiasco in Boston (in which Gregg was ultimately "protecting" Britton).

My only concern was that Gregg has not been an overly effective pitcher in his career, and I don't know if he's a good guy to be giving pitching advice to a youngster.



Remember it again for 2013, 2014, etc....

SAME things were written in 2008, 2009, 2010, and not this year....

In 2014, you'll be able to refer back to his piece. Will be the exact same scenario, but the pitchers name will have changed.

We keep growing the arms... year after year after year after year after year after year.......

Tillman was going to be a stud - Bust
Matusz was the man - In complete disarray
Bergy a find - He is who we thought he was
Arrieta - Upcoming surgery
Britton - has fallen off a cliff

This is the future folks. There are young pitchers throughout the game who are producing... but in Baltimore, we call them 'kid's. We say 'they need maturing'........ Good ole oriole fans......

FACT is....... This team will be LUCKY if ONE of the names listed above breaks through in the next couple years.

AM's 5th year of growing the arms.....

How's that working for you Baltimore?

Prior to 2010, I was concerned about rushing the young pitchers. Now, they are physical or mental wrecks.

Prior to 2011, I was one who did not want Britton rushed to the majors just because the front office fell way short (again) on getting major league pitching while the youngsters could develop as they are supposed to develop.

Well, it now looks like we need not worry about Britton's loss of an extra year of being in the fold. He may not be pitching anywhere in 2015.

Wayne, I think I fully speak for everyone else on here when I say shut up already.

You seem to think because we don't give you the attention you seek, or because we don't spend 24/7 dwelling in negativity that we're blind to how things are.

Any fool can see what state this team is in...but I (along with many others I'm sure) love baseball and am a long time O's fan. So I like to enjoy the game as opposed to dwelling on the constant negatives, just so I can toot my own horn and try to find some kind of cheap validation from everyone on the internet for being "right".

As I've said are not an O's fan, wayne. And I don't believe for a second that you ever have been. If the O's started winning, you'd run off and find another team's fans to antagonize and get your daily dose of attention. One of these days you'll mature a bit and find out there's more to life than the internet.

Well said Christopher! You do speak for me. I have been negative myself on most posts recently but certainly don't seek the constant validation wayne does of always being right. The O's organization is in real disarray right now -- we all see that, including Angelos and McPhail as well, I think though they may not agree that things would improve if they stepped out of the picture. Improvements are needed in lots of areas in this franchise but more money from the owner would help as would better talent in scouting and player development.


So when you say 'any fool', are you admitting that you see what state the team continues to be in?


Just a reminder: Tonights game is HUGE. If the O's win, they'll tie KC in the loss column. While the O's will still have the worst winning percentage in the AL, a win would mean we're battling not to be the absolute worst - once again.

If we can't beat anyone on the AL East (including toronto and TB), and if we can't beat the Nats and the Pirates, we might as well go down swinging against the Royals.

Who knows, if we win tonight..... perhaps AM will come on 1057the fan again tomorrow to tell us how 'we're better'.

Here we go again. A pitcher who takes responsibility and has a plan, and some of you rip him a new one. Also ripping Gregg for helping him.

I'd like to discontinue reading the comment section, but that would be missing on the onceawarrior's and other measured posts.



PA must sell the team or take the team elsewhere. This city will never have another competing team otherwise.

If he sells, great. We'll take our chances with anyone, from anywhere.

If he takes the team elsewhere, that's great as well. It may take a few years, but Baltimore will get another team. This is a medium market city with a tremendous cable deal (i know, the nxt owner wouldn't have the same deal).

The point is, these are the ONLY two scenario's that would give us any chance.

Fans saying 'i've been an oriole fan for years, and although i'm upset with the direction of the team, i'll continue to be a fan' are a dying breed. Attendance is at an all time low, while fans are becoming completely disinterested in the team.

The fans that go up to AM at games, telling him how great he is, are interesting. Fact is, they don't mind losing. Losing is the only thing they know. How else can anyone explain going up and shaking hands with the exec who has lost more games than any other exec in the game over the last two decades??

That's DECADES.... as in 20 years.

So post your 2012 line ups everyone. Jot down your starting rotations.... Have fun with that. Know though, whatever you put down will = Losing.

Sell or Leave... That's our only chance. PA and his sons do NOT CARE about W's. When will you UNDERSTAND that.

Sell or Leave.....

The bottom line is that this could have been avoided (rushing the prospects) if Andy checked his ego at BWI and actually pursued some starting pitching in Free Agency.

We need PROVEN commodities. But the problem is that Andy fed a lot BS to the fans over the last four years about "growing the arms". To go buy a pitcher now would be admitting failure.

Andy is arrogant. He will never admit mistakes. He thinks he is right. ANd if you disagree (look what happened to Krivsky!), you get fired or "asked to leave" the organisation.

He wants Yes Men working for him. No one else. Second opinions are a bad thing at the warehouse. It's Andy's way, or the highway.

Let's hope the next GM does not rush our prospects and is willing to buy guys like Garcia or Garland for a year.

The Orioles have a very good chance of losing 100 games this year, here in what I hope is Andy's swan song. Of the 55 games left, 30 are against AL East opponents. There are also other series with teams playing meaningful games.

When Andy gets up from his desk on the last day and heads into second retirement {He should have stuck with the first} he should look back at the warehouse and exclaim "This is where I came in." Because he will leave the team in the same mess as it was in June 2007. There is no silver lining for Andy's legacy. He took over a bad baseball organization and will leave behind a bad baseball organization

There is no sugarcoating it. He has done an awful job and will long be remembered for such.

Its really good to see Gregg being the good team mate again. Seems like the same few are always being supportive.
My question:
Should Gregg really be the one to advise Britton? Shouldn't someone be advising Gregg too? He can barely keep runners off the bases. Can we get Dennis Eckersley to talk to Gregg about completing the 1-2-3 inning? I'd like to get Greg Maddux in here to talk to Britton.

Well said Christopher. I think you do speak for MOST of us. That guy is like a broken record. We get his point and don't need to hear the same crap everyday. Very boring and predictable posts. It all sounds like blah, blah, blah anymore.

here's an idea for britton- shut up and pitch better.every time he pitches, just another indication of why he should have pitched in AAA all year. Failure to make the necessary adjustments. Grade: F.
Now they got another head case on their hands...

maybe the orioles oughta do what most people who know stuff are suggesting- see if you can't figure out how to catch Toronto sometime in the next 3 years or so.

I'll go on record as saying that if somebody makes me a good offer for Weiters, I'm taking it.

Dan, do you think that the orioles coaching staff can make Chris Davis a productive everyday major league player, or do you think he's just one of thousands who could not translate minor league prowess to major league adequacy?

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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