NEW YORK -- Zack Britton's aspirations to be part of the Yankees' postseason roster might have taken yet another hit Friday night. The veteran lefty reliever, who returned last week from Tommy John surgery, was removed from New York's 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles because of left arm fatigue in the sixth inning after facing two batters and throwing a run-scoring wild pitch.
Britton, 34, threw just nine pitches -- six of them out of the strike zone -- in just his third big league appearance following Tommy John surgery. He entered with two on and no outs in the sixth inning, and the score tied at 1. He walked Gunnar Henderson, then threw a 1-1 sinker to pinch-hitter Jesus Aguilar that sailed outside and hit the backstop on a bounce. Britton failed to cover the plate as a run scored.
He was replaced by Ron Marinaccio. Under MLB rules, a pitcher must face three batters or complete a half-inning, but he can be replaced earlier if hurt.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after the game that Britton's elbow checked out fine and that hopefully it's "nothing too serious."
"We didn't want to push through something and try reach for something that wasn't there and then end up hurting yourself,'' Boone said. "I think he's all right.''
Boone also revealed postgame that right-handed reliever Clay Holmes received a cortisone injection for inflammation in his right rotator cuff and likely won't pitch again until the American League Division Series starts Oct. 11.
"There's no use crying about what you do or don't have,'' Boone said. "You got to make the most of what you do. And the reality is we still have a lot of really talented guys down there.''
Holmes was stellar with a 1.41 ERA and 16 saves in 18 chances before the All-Star break, then had an 8.22 ERA in his next eight appearances and didn't pitch between Aug. 12 and 29 because of back spasms.
He compiled a 3.07 ERA in 13 games since returning, then Monday at Toronto Blue Jays, when he got three straight groundouts in the ninth inning of New York's 10-inning loss, he felt discomfort on a couple of pitches and went for an MRI on Thursday.
"I said something when I needed to and called it early enough where it didn't become something major,'' Holmes said. "The plan right now is to be ready for the division series.''
He won't throw for several days and hopes to pitch batting practice before the playoffs.
"You just have to pay attention to a lot of details coming back and every throw you have, you got to make the most of it,'' he said.
Britton, who went through a taxing rehab in his attempt to come back less than a year after undergoing left elbow reconstruction surgery and having a bone chip removed Sept. 9, 2021, was activated from the 60-day injured list Sept. 22, the same day the Yankees placed left-hander Wandy Peralta on the 15-day IL because of back tightness.
Britton has 154 saves in 11 major league seasons with the Yankees and Orioles and is eligible for free agency after the World Series. After pitching to a 5.89 ERA in 22 appearances in 2021, Britton, who has commanded a $14 million salary while on the IL this season, said he wanted to truly feel like a contributor on a championship contender.
"The reason why I kind of pushed things was because I wanted to pitch this year for this team and help them win," Britton said last week while addressing his motivation for returning this year. "There's no benefit for me, personally, other than the fact that maybe I can have an impact on a World Series championship team. It's really the only goal for me at this stage of my career."
Britton made eight minor league injury rehabilitation appearances, allowing one run and eight hits in 6⅔ innings for Single-A Tampa, Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He returned to the major leagues on Sept. 24 against Boston Red Sox and also pitched Wednesday at Toronto. He got one out in each appearance but had trouble with control, walking five. Across three games, Britton has pitched only ⅔ of an inning and has a 13.50 ERA.
It was already a remote possibility that Britton would make the Yankees' postseason roster. There is a numbers crunch in the Yankees' bullpen, as teams can carry a maximum of 13 pitchers on their 26-man postseason rosters, with no league-mandated minimum.
The Yankees currently have two relievers nearing a return from injury who have been contributors all season. Peralta, who has been a high-leverage option, threw a bullpen and will throw another Sunday before the Yankees decide whether to activate him. He could be an option during their last regular-season series, a four-game set against the Texas Rangers in Arlington that begins Monday.
Miguel Castro, who rejoined the team Friday, is also on track to make his way back from a 60-day stint on the IL with a right shoulder strain. It is a similar case for fellow right-handed reliever Albert Abreu, who is close to being fully recovered from right elbow inflammation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.