Red Sox's Britton Ready For Bigger Load

FORT MYERS, FLA.The 2010 season represented a milestone for Drake Britton, as he remained on the mound for a full season for the first time since having Tommy John surgery in October 2008.

The lefthander proved extremely impressive in low Class A Greenville. In 21 starts, he forged a 2.97 ERA while striking out just over a batter an inning. He also showed progress above his pre-surgery control as a result of the work he did—both honing his delivery in dry drills, and building himself physically—while rehabbing. 

Even so, he faced the normal innings restrictions that the Sox place on their pitchers as they return from Tommy John. As such, he ended up logging 76 innings—he had pitched fewer than 50 innings as a pro before 2010.

As such, Britton was thrilled by what he heard from the Sox entering this spring.

"It looks like the leash is going to come off," said Britton, 21, who is slated to open the year in the rotation of high Class A Salem.

He was told that the organization would like to see him log roughly 120 innings while refining his pitch arsenal. With his surgery behind him, the lefthander appears capable of shouldering a solid workload.

The 6-foot-2 Britton was 225 pounds when drafted in the 23rd round Tomball (Texas) High in 2007, but now weighs a much leaner 220 after spending his rehab year in the weight room. That work, the Sox hope, will pay off as his innings increase.

"We expect him to be durable," farm director Mike Hazen said. "He's strong, he's got a good delivery, he repeats. All those things we look for."

Britton flashed a powerful fastball that typically sat at 93-94 mph but touched 96 last year. When he leverages it down in the zone, it proved a swing-and-miss pitch.  
Britton also has an above-average curveball. His work-in-progress changeup remains a priority.

"Obviously, this year, looking at him now with hopefully a fuller workload coming in, we'll continue to see development," Hazen said. "The changeup is something that he needs to really focus in on because we do project this guy as a starting pitcher down the road."

Sox Yarns

• In his first game since signing with Boston last summer, 2010 sandwich pick Anthony Ranaudo touched 94 mph and showed a sharp breaking ball in a spring game.

• Lefthander Felix Doubront, after missing most of the exhibition schedule while recovering from elbow stiffness, returned to games in the last week of March.