June 16, 2017

BALTIMORE (AP) Standout closer Zach Britton returned to Camden Yards on Friday, eager to start the next stage of his plan to get back to the Baltimore bullpen.

Britton went on the 10-day disabled list a second time in early May with a left forearm strain. The Orioles left-hander was working his way back from the injury in Florida, and now he's ready to ramp up the action.

''Physically, I'm past anything with the injury,'' Britton said. ''Now it's just about building innings, getting back into pitching form and the mindset where you stop worrying about being injured.''

Britton will start for Class A Aberdeen on Monday. He will continue to work in the minors before tentatively returning around the middle of July.

''The end date is kind of up in the air,'' he said. ''We've been taking it step by step. I threw a (simulated) game yesterday and feel good. We're not trying to jump the gun or anything, but we're over the injury so maybe now we can put together a more accurate plan of when I get back.''

The Orioles have no intention of rushing the process, even though they've been struggling of late. Britton was initially placed on the DL on April 16, activated on May 2 and was back on the disabled list after pitching on May 4.

Treating him tenderly this time appears to have paid off.

''You can tell by talking to him he feels good about where he is,'' manager Buck Showalter said.

Britton went 2-1 with an 0.54 ERA last year and had 47 saves in 47 tries. This season, he's got a 1.00 ERA and five saves.

The Orioles could use him. Their bullpen is depleted from too many abbreviated outings by the starting staff, and Darren O'Day - another key figure in the back end of the bullpen - is also on the DL.

Baltimore lost 16 of 23 before Friday.

''It's been tough to watch as a teammate, not being here to help,'' Britton said.

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