Orioles closer Zach Britton, who underwent surgery to repair a torn right Achilles tendon Dec. 21, said his recovery is going well.
During a conference call at Orioles FanFest Jan. 27, the left-hander said he was planning to be in Sarasota, Fla., when spring training begins Feb. 13.
"I saw the doctor again for my second follow-up," Britton said, "and he was really happy with where I'm at, maybe a little ahead of schedule, so [I'm] not skipping any steps, but just picking up the pace on things I'm doing now."
Britton, 30, was originally expected to miss about six months.
"Mentally, I'm in a lot better place now," Britton said. "Every week I've been doing physical therapy now. It's been over a month. We've made some really big strides. I've gotten nothing but good feedback from the doctors and the therapists.
"… I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now that I'm able to walk. It's something that maybe you take for granted every day, to be able to stand up and shift your weight. I've been uplifted with the things that I've heard from other people and then obviously with the physical therapy."
Britton won't be pitching during spring training, but he expects to make significant steps, and maybe take the mound before the end of spring training.
"I'll be walking. I'll be back into throwing," Britton said. "I think I can throw next week, but I think we're just going to hold off until I get to spring [training]. … Hopefully before spring's over, I'll look like a healthy player."
This will be the second straight season Britton has missed significant time. In 2017, he missed most of the season's first half with a left elbow injury and a sore left knee ended his season early.
"Unfortunately, I had those injuries, so at least I have a baseline of what I know to need to get done," Britton said. "In those rehab outings last year, I didn't really get as much out of them as I wanted to."
In 2017, Britton pitched just 37.1 innings and saw his American League record of 60 consecutive converted save opportunities end. The year before, Britton allowed four earned runs in 67 innings for a 0.54 ERA and went 47-for-47 in save chances.
It's far too early to know when Britton can begin his rehab assignment.
"It's not going to be exactly like last year," Britton said. "Last year, those things were more inflammation, and so it was just like waiting for those things to get out. … I know it's going to suck watching the team play and not be there. Mentally, I'm prepared to kind of be on the sidelines watching. … Last year, I was kind of down in the dumps, and I think this year, I can kind of use it as a positive."
Had Britton suffered his injury in late November, the Orioles could have non-tendered him, but they were obligated to sign him since they offered him a contract in early December.
On Jan. 12, the Orioles and Britton's agent, Scott Boras, agreed on a $12 million contract for 2018. Britton can be a free agent after this season.
"They weren't smooth by any means," Britton said of the negotiations. "We kind of drew a hard line about where we were going to start negotiations with the Orioles. They were really professionals about it. They're hard negotiators, though, and anyone in baseball will tell you that, but at the end of the day, I think we found something that we were comfortable with and they thought was fair."
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