Duquette: Britton's value in 'pen, not starting

Duquette: Britton's value in 'pen, not starting

BALTIMORE -- Could Zach Britton be a potential rotation candidate next spring?

"That's something we've discussed internally, but I'm not sure it's something we are really interested in pursuing," Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this month at the General Managers Meetings.

"I'm not sure that's something Zach is interested in pursuing. He's worked really hard to perfect his sinker, and that's made him a premier pitcher."

Britton, a two-time All-Star closer, went a perfect 47-for-47 in save opportunities and finished fourth in American League Cy Young Award voting this season. Duquette has already said that adding a starting pitcher is not on the O's agenda this offseason, and he's made it clear he'd prefer not to trade Britton, who would be an interesting trade chip. But the possibility of the lefty returning to the rotation looks like a long shot at best.

If the Orioles are indeed set in their rotation -- which has been their weakest link over the past few seasons -- they'll probably once again need to rely heavily on the bullpen in 2017.

"The traditional way to build a pitching staff is to have a couple 200-innings guys in front, a setup man and closer -- and you bookend those and it should prevent you from long losing streaks and help you secure the wins," Duquette said. "But there aren't that many 200-inning pitchers anymore. It's a rarity. So in some ways it's more prudent to have a stronger bullpen.

"[Putting Britton in the rotation is] an interesting idea and worth discussing, but I'm not sure it's a direction we are interested in going. But who pitched better than Zach Britton this year?"

Britton, who last served as a starter in 2013, posted a 0.54 ERA in 69 games this past season. He is 9-4 with a 1.35 ERA in 206 career games (213 2/3 innings) as a reliever, versus 18-17 with a 4.86 ERA in 46 games (250 innings) as a starter. He has recorded at least 36 saves in each of the past three seasons.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.