Zach Britton Looking To Continue Building Case For AL Rookie Of The Year

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 20: Zach Britton #53 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the Minnesota Twins at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Wednesday night, something very interesting is going to happen in Camden Yards. Actually, several very interesting things may happen in Camden Yards, but one very interesting thing will definitely happen: Bartolo Colon will pitch for New York, opposite Baltimore's Zach Britton.

Colon is a story on his own. This is a guy who was completely out of baseball a year ago with an assortment of physical maladies, but has come back to pitch effectively in the Yankees' rotation when the team badly needs it.

But Britton puts the duel over the top. Colon vs. Britton on May 18 isn't a matchup we would have predicted before the year, but here we are, with Colon pitching well and Britton making an early case as AL Rookie of the Year.

Zach Britton wasn't supposed to up by now. Not yet. The Orioles would've liked for him to get some more seasoning in AAA. But an early-season injury to Brian Matusz opened up a spot in Baltimore that Britton has filled, and he hasn't just filled it; through his first eight starts, he's been peaches.

He's sitting on a 2.42 ERA, he's generated a lot of groundballs with a sinker he developed by accident, and he's fresh off nine shutout innings of the Mariners, which is a game somewhere between a normal game and a minor-league rehab assignment, but the numbers from which count just the same. Britton's been good, and now he has a little momentum.

Wednesday, he'll face his toughest challenge to date, as the Yankees feature a frightening lineup. But given that Britton has already pitched pretty well against both the Rangers and Indians, a struggle cannot be assumed, and a strong start could go a long way towards really getting his RoY ball rolling.

The early competition for that honor is fierce. Most visibly, there's Michael Pineda, with the fastest fastball among major league starters and more strikeouts than innings. There's Jordan Walden, who's surviving as a closer. There's Jeremy Hellickson, there's Alexi Ogando, there's J.P. Arencibia, there's Mark Trumbo, there's now Eric Hosmer, and there are a handful of other candidates, too. Britton is by no means head and shoulders above the rest of the class, and it's arguable whether he's above it at all.

But Britton has been more than the Orioles could have asked for in the early going, and with some missed bats showing up in his most recent two starts, there are indications that he could kick things up another level yet. Keep an eye on his performance Wednesday night. If Britton shows he can conquer the Yankees, odds are pretty good he'll go on to give Pineda and the others a run for their money.

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