TAMPA — Zack Britton has already dealt with a bout with COVID and is scheduled to undergo surgery to remove a bone spur in his left elbow Monday, but he’s thankful for the fact he should be back on the mound for at least the second half of the season.
“It’s disappointing,” Britton said Wednesday of being sidelined for three-to-four months by the arthroscopic surgery as he built up slowly following a January COVID diagnosis.
“I came in [to camp] having lost a lot of weight from COVID in the offseason, a little bit behind anyway,” Britton added. “So adding this to that, it’s been a pretty frustrating couple of weeks. But I’m gonna get it taken care of and I’m gonna be able to pitch this year and help the team. That’s the most important thing.”
The 33-year-old left-hander further detailed his COVID battle, saying he believes he got it while at the hospital while he and his wife were having a baby.
“So that made it even worse,” Britton said.
He said he lost about 18 pounds and the virus “wiped me out for about 10 days.”
“I was not expecting to get hit that hard by COVID,” Britton said. “I did a lot of research on it when it started really spreading and I knew I didn’t want it… It definitely wasn’t something I was taking lightly.”
Prior to the elbow injury, which Britton said he didn’t feel until after he threw a bullpen on Sunday, he was beginning to feel like himself again.
“Right after I got it, it was difficult to work out,” Britton said. “My stamina [was down] and I was out of breath quite a bit. The doctors said I was all right… For me, my body wasn’t a big fan of getting [COVID].”
And Britton still hasn’t regained all the weight he lost since January, which was among the reasons he was being brought along slowly this spring.
He added the illness prevented him from throwing for about “three or four weeks.”
“We were smart about coming into spring,” Britton said. “I thought I was on a really good program, feeling great… It was a gradual buildup and things were going well until after the last bullpen.”
Without Britton for the foreseeable future, Aaron Boone said he would handle the lefty’s likely role — the eighth inning — on a matchup basis.
Aroldis Chapman will still close, but Chad Green, Justin Wilson and Darren O’Day will be thrust into more important situations, as will whichever arm the Yankees choose to fill out the bullpen in Britton’s absence.
Michael King and Nick Nelson, both right-handers, have thrown well this spring and Boone said Britton won’t necessarily be replaced by another left-hander.
And Boone is relieved Britton will return during the season — a year in which pitchers will be handled very carefully after not throwing many innings in 2020.
“It’s certainly a blow, but we know he’s gonna be back,” the manager said. “Especially in a weird season, maybe in a way, this allows him to stay fresher throughout the season.”
Britton added he considered rehabbing the injury, but at this early part of the season, it made more sense to have it fixed now.
Britton is not particularly concerned with exactly what his timeline for return will be.
“However long that takes is how long I’m gonna be out,” he said. “But I know I’m gonna be back with the team this year and pitch significant innings. That’s all that matters. We’ve just got to be smart.”