Orioles closer Zach Britton could miss two months with forearm injury

In two out of the past three seasons, the Baltimore Orioles have ridden a strong bullpen into the playoffs. Now, they’ll be forced to get through nearly half the season without their best reliever.

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Closer Zach Britton could be out for up to two months due to a forearm injury. While the team has not confirmed that timeline, both Roch Kubatko of MASN and Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com spoke to sources who indicated the pitcher will be sidelined for 45-60 days.

Britton disagreed with that assessment, saying he would be “shocked” if he was sidelined for 45 days.

While the pitcher is optimistic about his return, the team wants to err on the side of caution. Britton initially went on the disabled list April 16. He rushed back to return, according to Kubatko, and lasted only two appearances before heading back to the DL. The team wants to prevent that situation from happening again.

Britton is currently at the team’s complex in Florida. He’ll begin a throwing program in a few days.

Should Britton be sidelined for the maximum of 60 days suggested by both sources, he would return right around the All-Star break. This year’s All-Star game takes place July 10.

The Orioles may be without Zach Britton for a few weeks. (AP)

In his absence, the Orioles have mostly turned to Brad Brach in save situations. The 31-year-old has been excellent thus far, posting a 2.41 ERA over 18 1/3 innings. He has converted eight save opportunities, and has been credited with six holds. His only blown save came against the New York Yankees, when Brach allowed three runs in the ninth. Other than that, he’s been solid.

Still, it’s going to be tough to replace Britton. Many considered the 29-year-old the best reliever in baseball last season. Over 67 innings, Britton posted a sterling 0.54 ERA and converted all 47 of his save opportunities. That performance earned him a fourth place finish in the American League Cy Young voting.

Despite the injury, Britton had performed adequately this year. Over nine innings, he posted a 1.00 ERA, converting all five of his save chances. He had some uncharacteristic control issues, walking four batters during that period.

If Britton’s absence has impacted the Orioles, they haven’t shown it just yet. At 21-10, they currently sit in second place in the AL East, just behind the Yankees.

With Britton out, the rest of the team’s bullpen will be tested. Though the Orioles succeeded early on, losing a pitcher of Britton’s caliber will be tough to fully replace.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!