TAMPA — Months before Zack Britton learned that he needed surgery to remove a bone chip in his left elbow, the elite reliever was enduring a scary battle with COVID-19
Speaking about his surgery on Wednesday afternoon, before traveling back to New York for the procedure, Britton revealed that he tested positive for the coronavirus during the offseason.
"I got it and it wiped me out pretty good for about 10 days," Britton said in a Zoom call with reporters. "I lost about 18 pounds, which could be good I guess but I wasn't looking to lose 18 pounds. It happened quickly so that's not good on your body and puts pressure in a lot of places."
Contracting the virus in January also impacted Britton's ability to ramp up prior to spring training. Losing three-to-four weeks of throwing, combined with the after effects of the virus hindering his ability to workout, held Britton back from a normal pre-camp workload.
"There was a period of time right after I got it that it was difficult to work out. I was losing some stamina and I was out of breath quite a bit," Britton recalled. "Like I said, COVID got me pretty good. It just goes to show that everyone's going to react a little bit differently, just like anything, but for me, my body wasn't a big fan of getting it and it's been taking me a while. The weight still hasn't come all the way back. We're a few months out and I'm still fighting my way back from it."
The 33-year-old acknowledged that he and his family had taken all the necessary precautions to avoid getting COVID, researching as the virus began to spread and "being smart" throughout. Even if he was aware of the pandemic, and wasn't taking it lightly, it came into his life when he least expected it.
"I think I got it at the hospital when we were having our kid so it was even worse," Britton said. "I was not expecting to get hit that hard by COVID and it wiped me out pretty good. The weight loss was surprising and just the after effects that I've been dealing with showed me how serious this can be even for somebody that's healthy and how that can impact you for months even after you've gotten over the roughest symptoms."
Britton is expected to undergo arthroscopic elbow surgery in the next few days. The timetable for his return is fluid, but could last up to several months.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone acknowledged that the loss of an elite reliever like Britton will be a "blow" to the back end of the bullpen, but could also turn into a positive for the reliever's longevity later on this season.
"In a weird season, maybe in a way this could be something that allows him to stay fresher throughout the season," Boone said. "I feel good about what he's going in to get done and that he'll be able to return back to form at some point. While certainly anytime you lose a guy of Zack's caliber it hurts, but the timing of it, hopefully, is something that benefits us all, especially in the second half."
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