Orioles' Showalter still undecided on closer following Britton injury

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BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 23: Zach Britton #53 of the Baltimore Orioles is taken out of the game by manager Buck Showalter #26 in the ninth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 23, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Greg Fiume / Getty Images Sport / Getty

With spring training just over a month away, Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter still isn't sure who will handle the ninth inning in the absence of Zach Britton, who underwent surgery last month on his ruptured Achilles tendon.

"We have some people that are capable of doing it," Showalter told MASN's Roch Kubatko on Tuesday. "Obviously, nobody of the track record of the level that Zach has done it."

He continued: "In a perfect world you'd be able to spread it around, but I’m not there yet ... But I’m confident that we have more than one person capable of doing a good job with it."

Indeed, though the Orioles bullpen regressed last year following a dominant 2016 campaign, Showalter still has a number of viable candidates to fill in for Britton, who doesn't have a firm timetable for his return.

In 2017, right-hander Brad Brach acquitted himself well in the closer role as Britton dealt with recurring forearm issues, finishing the season with a career-high 18 saves while authoring a 3.18 ERA over 67 appearances.

Mychal Givens, the hard-throwing right-hander who posted a 2.75 ERA and 1.2 WAR across 69 appearances last year, is also a candidate to close, while veteran submariner Darren O'Day, whose 31.7 percent strikeout rate led all Orioles relievers in 2017, should get consideration, too.

2017 stats

Name WAR G ERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Mychal Givens 1.2 69 2.75 10.07 2.86 1.14
Brad Brach 1.1 67 3.18 9.26 3.44 0.93
Darren O'Day 0.8 64 3.43 11.34 3.58 1.19

Britton, who hopes to be back in May or June, still crafted a 2.89 ERA over 38 appearances and converted all but two of his 17 save opportunities despite spending considerable time on the disabled list. Since moving to the bullpen in 2014, Britton has been one of the game's top relievers, managing a 1.61 ERA - with a league-leading 77 percent ground-ball rate - across 242 outings while notching 135 saves in 145 tries (93.1 percent)

"To think you’re going to have somebody to do it at the level that Zach did it, that’s historic," Showalter said. "There's not a guy out there like that."