For many athletes, the hardest thing they will have to do is decide when it’s time to walk away from the game they’ve played their whole lives. On Monday, former Baltimore Oriole Zack Britton announced that he is retiring from baseball after 12 seasons in the major leagues.
Former Orioles reliever Zack Britton has announced his retirement
The Orioles drafted Britton out of high school in the 3rd round of the 2006 amateur draft. He made his way through the minors as a starter and debuted in 2011 for the O’s. Britton struggled to find consistency as a starter and had an 18-17 record with a 4.77 ERA through 2013.
Things changed when Britton was moved to the bullpen in 2014. He began to throw with more power and threw a mid to upper 90’s sinker that was so good, it was voted the best pitch in baseball in 2016. Over the next three seasons (2014-16), he was 9-4 with 120 saves and a 1.38 ERA.
His 2016 season was the kind of season that will be talked about for decades to come. Britton made 69 appearances, closing out 63 games and converting all 47 of his save opportunities while pitching to a ridiculous 0.54 ERA. That season Britton made his second consecutive all-star appearance, was fourth in Cy Young voting, and even got some down ballot MVP votes.
In 2017 Britton got bit by the injury bug. He continued to be an effective pitcher but he missed significant time with two stints on the IL. In 2018 Britton was working his way back from another injury when he was traded to the New York Yankees at the start of the Orioles rebuild.
Britton appeared to return to form for the Yankees and pitched very well for them in 2019 and 2020. He worked as a mostly in a setup role and led the Yankees with eight saves in the shortened 2020 season, but his health continued to be an issue. Injuries limited Britton to only 22 appearances in 2021 and just three appearances in 2022.
After not playing at all in 2023, Britton has decided it is time for him to move on. Unfortunately not everyone gets to leave the game on a high note like Ted Williams did after homering in his final major league at bat. While speaking with Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic, Britton stated "My last outing was against the Orioles. I threw a ball to the backstop as my last pitch; I think about that and it sucks," "It might not have been perfect from a career standpoint or going out on a high note, but you don't always get to pick. My gut was telling me it was time to see what life was like on the other side."
It’s ironic that a guy who was arguably the best closer in baseball for a time, and possibly in the Orioles franchise history, was not able to close his career the way he wanted too. Britton will always be part of the Orioles family and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.