Red Sox' Britton Returns Better Than Ever

BOSTON—When Drake Britton underwent Tommy John surgery in late 2008, the concern was obvious. The lefthander, who threw in the low-90s, with his fastball typically topping out at 93-94 mph, was concerned that his velocity might never be the same.

"It was a very big concern of mine," Britton said. "I know that velocity isn't the whole deal, but I would at least like to have had what I had before (surgery)."

And so one can only imagine Britton's surprise when he finally did return to the mound in games last August, 10 months after going under the knife. The 20-year-old pitched in seven games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and with short-season Lowell. Over 12 innings, he allowed one run while striking out 19, and he was lighting up the radar gun as never before, as Britton found out in his first GCL game. 

"It felt like it was coming out nice and easy, like I was going through the motions," Britton said. "They came up to me and said, 'We think the radar gun is wrong,' but consistently, I was 94-96, 97 every now and then. The ball's just jumped out of my hand ever since surgery."

That is a testament to the hard work that he did not just on his shoulder but his whole body during the rehab process. 

"He redefined his entire body, lowered his body fat and increased his lean mass significantly, spending that time in an area that he could make an impact in even though he couldn't throw," Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen said. "He's a different physical animal than he was 18 months ago."

The 6-foot-2 200-pound Britton also features a good swing-and-miss curveball and a changeup that he says has made significant improvements since surgery. Like most pitchers who come back from Tommy John surgery, the southpaw is working to regain his command, particularly on his fastball. Still, all initial signs were promising for the 2007 23rd round pick, who signed for a $700,000 bonus. He opened 2010 with low Class A Greenville, with a plan to have three- to four-inning outings while rebuilding. 

Sox Yarns
• Righthander Junichi Tazawa underwent Tommy John surgery on April 6 and will miss the 2010 season. Before going down, Tazawa pitched in five Grapefruit League games and sported a 10.29 ERA in seven innings of work.

• Righthander Eammon Portice, who had 141 strikeouts in 128 innings for high Class A Salem in 2009, shifted to working out of the bullpen for Double-A Portland.