Zack Britton’s numbers during his rehab assignment may not suggest a pitcher that is ready to come back to the big leagues, but for an established bullpen arm, physical and mental feel matter much more than results, and in that regard, Britton is ready to make his 2021 debut.
“I’m really excited,” Britton said before Saturday’s game, his first as a part of the active roster this season. “When I got up this morning at the team hotel, I felt like this was my Opening Day. I’m just really excited to be back and accomplish getting through the surgery and the innings I needed to put up, so really excited to be back with the guys.”
Britton allowed six runs in 4.1 innings of work during his split time in Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton, but more importantly, he feels back to his typical self, and doesn’t feel he requires any more additional work or treatment for his elbow, which needed surgery during spring training to remove a bone chip.
“One of the biggest hurdles was to be able to do what I normally do before a game and not need any additional work,” Britton said. “Early in the rehab maybe I needed little more, but that was a big hurdle for me to cross, just to be myself and be able to throw when needed.”
Britton also pointed to three of his five rehab appearances coming in a starting role, which felt foreign to a reliever who hasn’t made a start at the big league level since 2013.
“That’s just not me anymore,” Britton said. “Those times I started the game. I didn’t feel great. I felt out of whack and rushed, just not mentally all the way in it. But out of the bullpen the other two outings, I felt great…it was frustrating to put up bad numbers when I did, but when I got out of the bullpen knowing that those outings were good, that was all I needed to know that I was ready to come back.”
The Yankees will ease Britton back into a regular role despite Britton feeling ready to jump in with both feet, but whenever he is asked to pitch multiple innings or back-to-back games, he’s ready.
“Physically, I’m capable of doing that now,” Britton said. “Speaking with Boonie, Hark and Matt Blake, I think we’re going to ease into that, but physically, I feel like I’m capable of doing that right now.”
Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1