In a year of disappointments, one major bright spot within the Orioles organization is the performance of Zach Britton. The O's 3rd ranked prospect this offseason has been excellent at AA Bowie, racking up a 3.44 FIP (91.2 IP, 68 K, 28 BB, 4 home runs allowed) and an incredible 64.1% ground ball ratio. Now, he's been called up to Norfolk, a promotion that he has certainly earned. Understandably, this has caused speculation about whether or not we'll see Britton in Baltimore this season (assuming he keeps up his stellar performance in AAA, of course). Britt Ghiroli sure seems to think its possible, but I'm a touch skeptical.
By my count, the Tides have 65 games remaining this season, meaning that Britton is likely to make about a dozen starts in the International League. He's already thrown 91.2 innings across 15 games this season, and another 12 starts would likely add about 70-75 innings to his season total. Britton tossed 140.1 innings in 2009, and 153.0 in 2008, so I can certainly see the Orioles pushing him to about 160 or 170 innings this season. As we all know, 91 + 70 = 161. Would the Orioles bring Britton to Baltimore just for one or two starts, or perhaps a handful of relief appearances? It's certainly possible, but I don't think that's the most likely scenario. Britton is still just 22 years old, and the club handled young pitchers Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman very carefully in September just a year ago, shutting down the youngsters at the first signs of fatigue. As a fan, I'd love to see Britton make it all the way to Baltimore this year, but I've got my money on a 2011 debut.