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Zack Britton’s return to Yankees’ bullpen coming into focus

Zack Britton returned to the Yankees’ clubhouse on Wednesday, but he’ll have to wait a few more days to make his long-awaited return to the mound.

Just over 12 months removed from UCL surgery on his left elbow, Britton completed his rehab assignment Tuesday night and arrived in The Bronx on Wednesday feeling healthy, awaiting a decision from the Yankees on when he will be activated from the 60-day injured list.

“For me, I’m physically ready to come back and pitch,” Britton said before the Yankees beat the Pirates 14-2. “It’s just a matter of what they want to do.”

The wait on the Yankees’ end comes from needing to make sure they are protected in the bullpen over the coming days, knowing that starters Luis Severino on Wednesday and Domingo German on Saturday would be on limited pitch counts.

Britton made eight appearances during his rehab assignment, none longer than an inning and none on back-to-back days.

Zack Britton
Zack Britton
Corey Sipkin

“We just gotta see where we are from a coverage standpoint, day by day,” manager Aaron Boone said.

The Yankees plan to activate reliever Scott Effross (shoulder strain) from the 15-day IL on Thursday, and rookie Greg Weissert, who pitched a scoreless inning in the Yankees’ win, was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room. But the Yankees will eventually need to open another roster spot for Britton — in addition to clearing a spot on the 40-man roster — which could force a decision on whether to option a reliever such as Ron Marinaccio, Clarke Schmidt or Lou Trivino.

Whenever he does get back, Britton will jump right into a playoff race with less than two weeks left in the regular season.

“I think it’s just getting volume,” Britton said. “The sooner I get back and [am] able to get some games under my belt, the better I feel about helping the team in the postseason.”

That postseason chance is what has been driving Britton, a pending free agent, to get back in time to pitch this year.

“The reason why I kind of pushed things is because I want to pitch this year for this team to help them win,” he said. “There’s no benefit for me personally other than the fact that maybe I can have an impact on a World Series championship team. That’s really the only goal for me at this stage of my career. I’ve gotten my contract. Thirty-four years old. My reasons are much different now than when I was younger. I want a ring. That’s why I pushed this to come back and be an option for the team. So whether or not they activate me, that’s up to them.”

The Yankees could certainly use a dependable Britton, especially with the back end of their bullpen currently in flux amid recent struggles from Clay Holmes and an unpredictable Aroldis Chapman.

“I think we’re going to have to do it on a matchup-type basis where, let’s get these guys in for these few hitters that we think are absolutely the best situation for them,” Boone said. “I think we have a lot of really good things happening down there and a lot of really good options and different guys coming back into the mix that can help. But sorting out and locking down those roles and where they’re best equipped is going to be important here in these final days.”

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