Britton Ready For The 'Bigs'

Britton has been great with runners on base

Reliever Chris Britton has dominated the International League with his tremendous fastball and curve combination this season, posting an earned run average of 0.78 with Triple-A Scranton. With several members of the New York Yankees' pitching staff struggling, he may be the key component to get the Yankees' bullpen back on track.

The Yankees acquired Chris Britton from the Baltimore Orioles during the 2007 offseason in exchange for starting pitcher Jaret Wright and appears to be the steal of the winter for the Yankees.

In 23 innings with Triple-A Scranton, Chris has posted a 0.78 earned run average and an impressive 26:9 strikeout-to-walk-ratio.

"I try to get strike-one, I usually like to go after the hitters and attack the strike zone," said Britton. "But I just try to go out and do the same thing every time too."

Britton was drafted by the Orioles in the eighth round of the 2001 amateur draft (233rd overall) out of high school. After suffering various injuries in the minors and ultimately missing his 2003 season when he required surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, Britton burst back onto the scene and established himself as one of the best relief prospects in Baltimore's farm system.

He was moved to the bullpen prior to the 2004 season in order to get his arm back into pitching shape; the transition ended up being the best move of his baseball career. With low-A Delmarva, Britton pitched 84 innings with a 3.75 earned run average and an 80:31 strikeout-to-walk-ratio.

2005 marked Britton's best season, however. With high-A Frederick, he struck out 110 in 78.6 innings, while posting a miniscule 1.80 earned run average.

He began last season with Double-A Bowie, but after 16 innings of solid relief appearances, Britton was promoted to the majors. Some scouts argued that he was rushed, but he was arguably one of the best relievers not only on the Orioles' staff in 2006, but proved to be one of the best rookie pitchers in baseball. He posted a 3.35 earned run average and 41 strikeouts, along with holding opponents to a .228 batting average.

"I finally got an opportunity to prove myself on the mound, and things just went forward from there." recalls Britton of his fantastic 2006 season.

He was especially excited about his trade to the Yankees.

"It's a great situation and a great opportunity for me," he said. "They're always a contender, and I'm competitive," Britton added.

He entered Spring Training with a chance at a starting job in the Yankees' bullpen, but encountered some control problems early on and was reassigned to the minor league camp.

Britton opened the year with Triple-A Scranton and has dominated the International League since then.

"I throw a fastball, curve and changeup, and I'm really confident in my curve this season," said Britton.

His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90's, and his curveball is especially deceptive. He has the tools, great command of his breaking pitches, plus power on his fastball, and he can also take the mound with only a few days of rest. The only cause for concern is his weight.

Standing 6-foot-3 and is listed as weighing 280-pounds, his enormous frame does allow him to generate a great deal of velocity for his fastball, but like any heavy pitcher, organizations tend to worry about durability and proper conditioning. This was reportedly why the Orioles were not hesitant to part with him.

Despite durability concerns, Britton has been very effective in Triple-A Scranton this season, and is worthy of a promotion. With veteran reliever Luis Vizcaino struggling on the mound, the Yankees may need to take a serious look at giving him another look in the majors.

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