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Zach Britton

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Zachary Grant Britton

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Left-handed pitcher Zack Britton made his major league debut with the Baltimore Orioles in 2011.

Britton was the Orioles' 3rd round pick in the 2006 amateur draft, out of a Texas high school. He was signed quickly by scout Jim Richardson and began his professional career that same year with the Rookie-level Bluefield Orioles of the Appalachian League, going 0-4, 5.29 in 11 starts. In 2007, he moved up to the Aberdeen IronBirds of the New York-Penn League, where he did better, going 6-4, 3.68 in 15 starts with a 45/22 K/W ratio.

Britton continued to improve in his first year of full-season ball, with the Delmarva Shorebirds of the South Atlantic League in 2008, where he was 12-7, 3.12, giving up only 118 hits in 147.1 innings. He continued to move up one level per season in 2009, spending the year in the advanced Class-A Carolina League with the Frederick Keys, where he lowered his ERA for the 4th straight year, bringing it down to 2.70 in 25 games, for a 9-6 record. After the season, he was named the league's Pitcher of the Year and made the Baseball America top 100 prospect list for the first time, earning the 63rd spot on the prestigious list. In 2010, he started the year with the Bowie BaySox of the AA Eastern League and continued to figure among his circuit's best pitchers, putting up a record of 7-3 with a sparkling 2.48 ERA in 15 games. Now on a faster track to the majors, Britton was promoted in mid-season to the AAA Norfolk Tides, where he was only 3-4, but with a very good 2.98 ERA. Overall that season, his ERA was 2.70 in 27 games, with 124 strikeouts in 153.1 innings. He was selected to pitch for the USA team in the 2010 Futures Game. Relieving Jeremy Hellickson to open the third inning, he allowed a leadoff single to Francisco Peguero but then retired Brett Lawrie, Osvaldo Martínez and Yonder Alonso. He was relieved by Zack Wheeler. After the season, his ranking on the Baseball America top 100 prospects list jumped 35 spots to #28.

Having mastered every level of the O's farm system, Zack Britton headed to spring training in 2011 with an inside track for a job in the team's starting rotation. He earned the job when he put up a 1.35 ERA in 20 innings in the Grapefruit League, then was masterful in his major league debut facing the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on April 3. In six innings, he gave up only a run on 3 hits, striking out six, to earn credit for the Orioles' 5-1 win. He continued to pitch well in the season's first weeks; on May 1, he beat the Chicago White Sox 6-4 to run his record to 5-1. He began to struggle afterwards, and was sent down to the minors in early July to right things. It did not really seem to work, as he was rocked on his return, giving up 9 runs in only one third of an inning in the second game of a doubleheader against the New York Yankees on July 30th, as the Bronx Bombers rolled to a 17-3 win.

Britton was moved to the bullpen starting in 2014 and immediately found his true calling. That first season, he saved 37 games with a 1.65 ERA to help lead the Orioles to a division title. He saved a pair of games as the O's swept the Detroit Tigers in the Division Series. In the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals, however, he gave up a run on three hits and four walks in 2 1/3 innings as the Orioles were swept in turn. In 2015, he had another very solid year, going 4-1, 1.92 with 36 saves in 64 games. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time, but the Orioles did not make the postseason. Then in 2016, he had a season as good as any one-inning closer had ever put together: in 69 outings, he went 2-1 with 47 saves in 47 opportunities, pitched 67 innings during which he gave up a mere 38 hits and 18 walks, struck out 74 and allowed a total of four earned runs for a microscopic ERA of 0.54. He set a major league record with a stretch of 43 consecutive appearances without allowing a run, from May 5 to August 22nd. The Orioles played in the Wild Card Game against the Toronto Blue Jays in a closely-fought game that took 11 innings to decide in favor of Toronto, but much to the puzzlement of the team's fans, he was left on the bench as manager Buck Showalter was waiting to use him in a save opportunity that never came. He had returned to the All-Star Game that season and led the American League in both saves and games finished, then was named the recipient of the Mariano Rivera Award as the best relief pitcher in the AL.

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