BALTIMORE -- Amid a throng of media, scouts and baseball executives, Orioles pitcher Zach Britton walked through the lobby of the Hilton Anatole earlier this week with a mixture of curiosity and awe. Britton, who got married in Newport Beach, Calif., last month, resides only a few miles from the site of this year's Winter Meetings, and he made it a point to stop by and introduce himself to the organization's new front office, including executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.
While Duquette, who has made it no secret that the organization needs to upgrade its pitching, has referenced Britton as one of the team's more consistent young pitchers, the 23-year-old was far from satisfied with his rookie season.
"I don't think it's necessarily a compliment, it's kind of an indication of how we didn't perform last year like we should have," Britton said upon hearing Duquette's comment. "If I was the most consistent person other than Jeremy [Guthrie], who went out there again and threw 200 innings, that's not what you are looking for. You need better than that. I didn't pitch as good as I should have [last season], so I want to be way more consistent."
To that end, Britton, who went 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA in 28 Major League games, will start his throwing program a little later, and right now, he has been placing added emphasis on building strength in his offseason workouts. He rotates between Texas and California, where he uses the facilities available to him as a Scott Boras client, and said he's already begun to see a difference in his conditioning. The hope is by adding strength and placing emphasis on lower-body conditioning, Britton can avoid the burnout that he ran into last season.
"I was so tired every day," Britton said of his first taste of the 162-game grind in the big leagues. "Not necessarily just [from] throwing, but I was like, 'Gosh, my body is so tired.' Now I know what it's like to go through the whole season. I know that I need to add strength -- total body strength."
While the Orioles carefully monitored Britton's innings with a brief demotion to Double-A and a stint on the disabled list to avoid shutting him down early, he admitted Monday he came into camp way ahead of schedule and paid the price down the stretch.
"I came into Spring Training last year -- obviously this year, too -- fighting for a spot," said Britton, who made the Opening Day rotation after an injury to Brian Matusz. "But I think last year it was [even] moreso kind of time to let everyone know who I was and put my stamp out there, because [manager Buck Showalter] hadn't seen me, none of the staff had seen me.
"This year, I'm going to kind of cut back a little bit and not try to get into midseason form right now, but allow Spring Training to help me get in shape, too -- and not come into Spring Training ready to go, way ahead of everyone else."
That doesn't mean Britton has plans to coast through camp. With the Orioles' trade for starter Dana Eveland and Duquette's oft-quoted stance on adding and upgrading the pitching as much as possible, Britton knows he's going to have to prove himself again this spring. He said he will enter camp with the same mindset as last year: that he's competing for a starting spot.
"I don't think anybody, other than a guy like Guthrie -- who has obviously established himself -- everyone else needs to come in there knowing that they have to earn a spot," said Britton. "We didn't perform well enough to earn a spot -- I don't think any [of the young arms] did -- so we have to go in there and show that we've made adjustments, and we can be a big part of the rotation that's going to help the team win -- because that's what they are looking for. They are not looking for someone to develop in the rotation; they are looking for you to finally make adjustments and go out there and give the team a chance to win."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.