The Washington Times - May 17, 2009, 11:16PM


Zach Britton is rarely the first guy mentioned when the subject of Baltimore Orioles pitching prospects comes up - that distinction would go to either Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta or Brian Matusz - but if the 21-year-old keeps dealing for the Frederick Keys, Baltimore’s Big Three could quickly morph into a Fab Four. Britton, a 6-foot-2, 172-pound lefty, has shown steady improvement since the Orioles took him in the third round of the 2006 draft, and he’s off to a great start this year in his first taste of advanced Class A ball.

Britton is just 1-1 through seven starts, but he ranks fifth in the Carolina League with a 2.27 ERA and fourth in K’s with 38 in 35 2/3 innings. His 19 walks are more than the Orioles would prefer, but he has made up for it by allowing just one home run and holding opposing batters to a .226 average. Britton’s performance over the past two seasons suggests his early-season success is no fluke. He went 6-4 with a 3.68 ERA for the short-season Class A Aberdeen IronBirds in 2007 and followed that up by finishing third in the Class A South Atlantic League in wins (12) and seventh in ERA (3.12) for the Delmarva Shorebirds last season.

I recently had the chance to speak with Britton, who entered this season ranked by Baseball America as the 12th-best prospect in the Orioles organization.


Q: You passed up a scholarship to Texas A&M to sign with the Orioles. Was that a difficult decision for you?

A: At first it was. I always dreamed of playing college baseball, but to have the chance to sign professionally, especially [after being drafted] in the third-round … That signing bonus was too hard to pass up.

Q: Could you talk a bit about the different pitches you throw and how you like to use them?

A: I throw a four-seamer, a sinking fastball, a slider and a changeup. My sinking fastball is probably my out pitch right now - I throw it in the low to mid-90s. My slider is probably my second-best pitch, and I’m coming along with the changeup right now; it’s been pretty good the last few outings, but it’s still a work in progress.

Q: Do you consider yourself a strikeout guy, a guy who pitches to contact, or some mixture of the two?

A: It’s a mixture of the two. The last couple years I haven’t struck out a lot of guys, but this year I think I have more strikeouts than innings pitched. I think that’s just more of me developing my secondary pitches, and them coming around to being quality pitches right now. So I think I’m still more of a ground ball guy.

Q: You’ve pitched at least five innings in all but one of your starts this year, but you have completed six innings only once. Are you on a pitch count?

A: We are. We’re on a pitch count, but I think it’s more of the fact that I’ve been walking more guys this year. When you walk guys and strike out a lot of guys you have higher pitch counts. I kind of just need to cut down on the walks and I’ll be able to pitch deeper into games.

Q: What aspects of pitching are you most focused on trying to improve upon this year?

A: Cutting down on walks, getting ahead of hitters, and then developing that changeup to where it’s going to be a quality pitch where I can go fastball-changeup throughout the game.

Q: Is there any pitcher, past or present, that you either look up to or try to model your approach after?

A: I’ve been asked that question a lot. Tom Glavine - I used to watch him all the time when I was little. [I liked] the way he attacked hitters. Obviously he had a good fastball when he first got drafted, but later in his career he relied more on early contact. So I enjoyed watching him and kind of tried to model my game after his. I mean, he’s on a far different level, but I liked watching him. And then Jon Lester, I guess, is a more modern guy I like to watch - I feel like we’re similar in some ways. Those two guys are the ones I really like to watch.

Q: How soon do you think you’ll be ready to help the Orioles?

A: I guess that’s up to them, but right now I feel like I’m getting a lot better. Every year a lot of progress has been made, so hopefully I can continue that, and hopefully soon.

Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at

Be sure to check out our previous National Pastime Prospect Q&A’s:

2009 - Jack McGeary, Nationals; L.J. Hoes, Orioles; Jordan Danks, White Sox; Mike Moustakas, Royals; Danny Duffy, Royals; Kyle Skipworth, Marlins; Xavier Avery, Orioles; Ryan Kalish, Red Sox; Derek Norris, Nationals.

2008 - Matt Wieters, Orioles; Ross Detwiler, Nationals; Adrian Alaniz, Nationals; Jake Arrieta, Orioles; Greg Golson, Phillies; John Shelby III, White Sox; Brandon Erbe, Orioles; Chris Marrero, Nationals; Jason Donald, Phillies; John Ely, White Sox; Nolan Reimold, Orioles; Michael Burgess, Nationals; Wes Hodges, Indians; Colton Willems, Nationals; Chris Tillman, Orioles; Dominic Brown, Phillies; Brandon Hicks, Braves; Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals; Nick Weglarz, Indians; Gorkys Hernandez, Braves; Beau Mills, Indians; Stephen King, Nationals; Brad Bergesen, Orioles; Fernando Martinez, Mets; Derrick Robinson, Royals; David Hernandez, Orioles; Jason Castro, Astros; Bobby Parnell, Mets; George Kontos, Yankees; Brian Matusz, Orioles; Matt LaPorta, Indians; Austin Jackson, Yankees; Jeff Bianchi, Royals; Cole Rohrbough, Braves; Pat Venditte, Yankees.