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Britton allows just two hits over three frames

Zach Britton thought he'd be spending the next few weeks at Triple-A Norfolk, but due to an injury to another young Baltimore starter, the 23-year-old left-hander will be making his Major League debut Sunday.

Britton, who was the Orioles' best pitcher this spring, will start in place of Brian Matusz in the series finale against Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field.

Matusz was placed on the disabled list Friday with a left intercostal muscle strain.

Before Saturday's 3-1 win, Britton said being in the Majors hadn't sunk in yet, but he expects that to change once he takes the mound.

"I was with these guys a couple days ago, so it doesn't feel that much different," said Britton, who posted a staff-leading 1.35 ERA in Spring Training. "I'm sure when I get out there, and hopefully there's a full crowd out there, I'm sure I'll be a little nervous."

At first, Britton was admittedly disappointed to be assigned to Triple-A. Between his performance last season -- when he was named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year -- and this spring, Britton expected to make the big league team. After he didn't, he credited a talk with veteran pitcher Mark Hendrickson for putting himself in the right frame of mind.

"Obviously, I wanted to be here with the team, but Mark took me out to lunch and sat me down and just told me you can't really control that stuff," Britton said. "We thought I was going to be in Norfolk, and he told me to go down there and take care of my business, and when it was my time to be up, be up. I think that really helped me. The next day in camp, I came in there and took care of my business. Then, obviously, this happened and I came here."

Now, Britton will get to make his debut against right-hander Wade Davis and the Rays.

"So far it's been everything I thought it would be. Obviously, [Sunday] will be a very special moment, not just for me but for my family," said Britton, a Panorama City, Calif., native who had close to 30 tickets for his debut. "Everyone's here, so it'll really be exciting [Sunday], and I'm really looking forward to it."

Orioles: Simon arrives in U.S.
• Alfredo Simon, a Dominican Republic native who was arrested in his home country following a New Year's Day shooting that killed one and injured another, returned to the U.S. on Saturday. The 29-year-old right-hander was released from a Dominican Republic prison on bail on March 3 and is expected to arrive at the team's Minor League facility at Twins Lakes Park on Sunday. He currently is on the the team's restricted list.

• Matusz will remain with the team through the weekend and see the team's orthopedist on Monday. He had been experiencing discomfort in his lat/back area that turned into acute pain Friday, and he was placed on the 15-day disabled list. The team expects to have a better idea on Matusz's timetable moving forward on Wednesday.

Rays: More mature Davis ready to begin 2011
• Facing Britton will be another young ace-in-the-making. The 25-year-old Davis went 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA in his first full season in 2010, and said he's grown since then.

"I understand a lot more than I did at this point last year," Davis said. "I know that I don't have to go out and throw the ball hard every pitch. I know that to get guys out, I understand I can take a step back and pitch a little more instead of throwing."

Davis, who also said he's learned to pitch more toward his strengths rather than the opponents' weakness, threw a complete-game four-hitter against Baltimore in his third career start. Of course, that was in September 2009, and the Orioles have changed quite a bit since then.

"They're more diverse," Davis said. "They have a lot of good hitters in that lineup. They do a lot of different things. You've got to make a pitch against those guys or they're going to hurt you."

• After Sunday's game, Davis will have his head shaved by a young pediatric cancer patient as part of "Cut for a Cure," an event benefiting the Pediatric Cancer Foundation and the Vincent Lecavalier Foundations.

Worth noting
Rays utility player Elliot Johnson became the first two-time winner of the Al Lopez Award, which honors Tampa Bay's most outstanding rookie in Spring Training. Johnson, who also won the award in 2008, hit .341 with a .449 on-base percentage and a Major League-leading 12 stolen basis. ... On Friday, Jeremy Guthrie became the third Baltimore Opening Day starter to allow three hits or fewer in eight or more scoreless innings in a season opener since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954. Dave McNally (1973 vs. Milwaukee) and Jim Palmer (1975 at Detroit) were the others.

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