Nobody was expecting the Baltimore Orioles to instantly become playoff contenders in 2012, but today’s news out of Birdland is still depressing. According to Jim Duquette, Zach Britton’s shoulder injury from late last season is “still lingering” and will limit his workload during spring training. Britton was rated as the Orioles’ top pitching prospect coming into the 2011 season, and he was arguably the O’s best pitcher for the first half of the season before slumping badly down the stretch.
Britton is hardly the first Orioles’ pitcher to have injury troubles. Heck, at this point, Orioles fans probably expect the team’s best pitching prospects to either get injured or flop at the major-league level. Brian Matusz looked like he was off to a spectacular young career, before getting injured and failing to regain his velocity or control. Jake Arrietta and Chris Tillman used to be considered the future of the franchise, but neither has been able to successfully transition to the majors. Also, while not a highly rated prospect, Brad Bergesen flashed some promise in 2009, but has since had injury issues and trouble striking out major-league hitters.
So while this news about Britton shouldn’t be too surprising, it makes me wonder: how much of the Orioles’ struggles to develop good, young pitchers is a result of organization philosophy and management, and how much is just plain bad luck?