Oblique improving, Britton to wait on spring debut

Closer, coaching staff want symptoms to dissipate before lefty's first game

Oblique improving, Britton to wait on spring debut

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Zach Britton says his left oblique muscle is feeling better, and he's progressing towards making his 2017 spring debut, but the Orioles' closer won't pitch in a game until his symptoms are gone.

"We all agreed there's no reason to go out there and go through the motions and possibly do any damage," Britton said. "We have time right now on our side, so kind of just stay in here and treat it today and come in in the morning and see how I feel."

When manager Buck Showalter revealed that Britton's oblique didn't feel quite right on Tuesday, there was immediate concern about the health of the Orioles' left-hander, who converted all 47 of his save opportunities in 2016.

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Britton said on Wednesday that the injury wasn't anything to worry about. He said that an ankle injury early last season was "100 times worse," and that if the oblique injury occurred in the regular season, he would have pitched through it.

"I think they want it to be completely gone before [I see game action], so hopefully it's just a couple more days," Britton said.  

"It's still there a little bit, but not as severe as it was, so we'll just kind of take it each morning and see how I feel. When it comes down to throwing or throwing off a mound, once it's completely gone, we'll do that. So, hopefully not too many more games."

Britton isn't hinting when he may pitch for the first time. He doesn't pitch road games in Spring Training, and he won't put a timetable for his debut. New pitching coach Roger McDowell and Britton will make the decision, he said.

"[McDowell] wants it to be completely gone before we ever get in a game," Britton said. "And we have an extra week of games because of the [World Baseball Classic], and it's not like I'm a starter any more. I don't need 20 innings, so I think we have time on our side."

Rich Dubroff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.