Britton struggles in Wednesday’s start (updated)

Orioles lefty Zach Britton, vying for the fifth and final rotation spot, didn’t help his case with a disappointing start against the Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday afternoon in which he allowed five earned runs  and didn’t make it out of the second inning.

But as Opening Day draws closer, the 25-year-old Britton said he “definitely” still thinks it’s possible he heads north with the team.

“I don’t think stats are everything they are looking at,” said Britton, who is competing primarily with rotation candidates Jake Arrieta, Steve Johnson and Brian Matusz and has a 6.10 spring ERA.  “Obviously you don’t want to have a game like this at all, whether it’s the season or Spring Training. But I think there’s other stuff they are looking at. I feel healthy, my stuff has been pretty good. Obviously the results today weren’t very good, but the velocity has been pretty good, movement on pitches has been pretty good.”

Making his third spring start, and fifth appearance, Britton gave up seven hits and a pair of walks, including Emilio Bonafacio’s two-run homer, in a dismal five-out outing. He needed 24 pitches to record an out, walking two of the first three batters in a 36-pitch first inning in which J.P. Arencibia smoked a bases-clearing double into left-centerfield to give Toronto an early three-run lead. Britton threw 59 pitches total with the Jays totaling four extra-base hits, including a leadoff double from Maicer Izturis and Bonafacio’s two-run homer in the second.

Britton said he was working on the four-seamer and acknowledged it’s tough to find the balance of trying to improve while fighting for a spot.

“Yeah, you’ve got to find the balance between them,” he said. “I wasn’t getting ahead, and there were probably sometimes where I could have gone to a sinker and maybe tried to get out of the inning instead of being stubborn and going with the four-seamer. But I trusted [catcher Matt Wieters] behind there. I kind of went with what he wanted to call. He knew the game plan and I think sometimes it’s more important that you work on it and if you do have a bad outings, it’s Spring Training. But I don’t have the luxury of having an outing like that when you’re competing for a spot.”

Britton has allowed seven earned runs this spring on 13 hits and four walks with seven strikeouts over 10 1/3 innings. He finished up his work Wednesday in the bullpen and may only get one more start before the team makes a decision on the fifth starter.

“I think you just have to show you bounce back, I think that’s the biggest thing here,” he said. “Showing that you are healthy. I felt like my rhythm was good on the mound it just wasn’t there, I didn’t really sync it up…it was just a matter of getting the ball down and locate it better.”

Britton, who began last year on the disabled list, is coming off a 2012 campaign in which he went 5-3 with a 5.07 ERA in 12 games (11 starts).

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