Zach Britton’s first day in Yankees pinstripes couldn’t have gone much smoother.
Britton made his Yankees debut on Thursday night, a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth inning in the Yankees’ 7-2 victory over the Royals at Yankee Stadium.
The former Orioles closer, who was acquired in a trade on Tuesday, came in with the Yankees leading 7-2. Britton got Mike Moustakas on a one-hopper to third, struck out Salvador Perez looking at a 96-mph fastball and retired Lucas Duda on a grounder to first.
The brief and effective outing extended a string of improving performances in Britton’s 17 appearances since his return on June 12 from offseason Achilles tendon surgery.
Britton, 30, went 1-0 with a 3.45 ERA and four saves in 16 games (15 2⁄3 innings) before the trade for three prospects.
“The more innings I get, the better I’ve been feeling,” he said before the game. “I’m about eight months removed from Achilles surgery. The strength was kind of an issue coming back. I lost a lot of weight after the surgery, a lot of strength. As I’ve put on that weight, a lot of the strength has come back. The velocity is coming back. I’m starting to feel more like myself.”
Britton joins a star-studded bullpen headed by closer Aroldis Chapman. Manager Aaron Boone said he is not changing closers, which Britton says is fine with him.
“I just kind of told him I’m ready for whatever situation he wants to use me in,” Britton said. “I understand what Chapman has done in this game and respect it. I just want to be used in any way I can, and that’s what they’re going to do. I want to make a good first impression. You want to come here, and this team is winning. You don’t want to be a hindrance to that. I want to go out there and help this team get a little further than they are now and catch the Boston Red Sox.”
Britton entered the game with a career ERA of 8.46 in 22 1⁄3 innings at Yankee Stadium, but a closer look at the numbers should make Yankees fans exhale. He began his Orioles career as a mediocre starting pitcher, and in three starts at Yankee Stadium in 2011-12, he allowed 17 earned runs in eight innings. Then he made the transformation to elite closer, and in the past six seasons, he had allowed four earned runs in 14 1⁄3 relief innings in the Bronx.
Make that 15 1⁄3 innings.
Notes & quotes: In addition to adding Britton, the Yankees optioned Luis Cessa to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and called up outfielder Shane Robinson to replace Brandon Drury, who was dealt to Toronto in the J.A. Happ trade.