Zack Britton’s frustrating season hit another snag Friday night at Fenway Park.
The Yankees reliever exited the 5-3 loss to the Red Sox in the eighth inning after suffering a hamstring injury.
On his final pitch of the night, an 89 mph sinker, Britton grabbed at the back of his left leg and immediately came up limping as he began to make his way to the dugout. Manager Aaron Boone and a trainer met him halfway but he came out of the game after recording only an out and throwing 11 pitches.
“We’ll know tomorrow,” Boone said of the severity. “We’ll know whether it’s a cramp, whether it’s a strain, whatever. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious, we’ll have to see. But, yeah, definitely some feel for Brit in that spot knowing what he’s been through to get back.”
Luis Cessa relieved Britton and inherited a full count to Hunter Renfroe before walking him. Renfroe came around to score an insurance run for the Red Sox.
It was the latest setback for Britton, who was pitching in his fifth game of the season after his debut was delayed following elbow surgery in March to remove a bone chip. He returned on June 12 and threw three scoreless innings across three games in six days.
But Britton did not pitch in the Yankees’ series against the Athletics last weekend, with Boone deeming him unavailable for Sunday’s series finale because the lefty was experiencing “soreness.” Boone called it part of the buildup process for Britton, who missed most of spring training because of the elbow issues but had also been progressing slower because of an offseason battle with COVID-19.
“I thought tonight [he was] probably throwing the ball as well as we’ve seen him [tonight],” Boone said. “I thought he was really crisp. It was coming out really nice, the sinker. He threw some good sliders, especially to [Rafael] Devers. We’ll see what we have tomorrow, but certainly feel for him.”
The Yankees bullpen had been strong while waiting for Britton to get back — it entered Friday with a 3.16 ERA, the second-best mark in the AL — but a healthy version of him was set to be an important asset for building a bridge to Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning.
While Britton could be forced to miss time, the Yankees are nearing the return of two other veteran relievers, which could help soften the blow. Righty Darren O’Day (rotator cuff strain) and lefty Justin Wilson (hamstring strain) are both in the midst of rehab assignments with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.