ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Chris Tillman blanked the Rays in the first inning, but they made him work for it.
Tillman went to a three-ball count to the first three hitters, though he retired Ben Zobrist on a foul pop up and struck out Johnny Damon on a 91 mph fastball.
Evan Longoria walked after taking two curveballs out of the strike zone with a 1-1 count and a 92 mph fastball that also missed.
Manny Ramirez fell behind, 0-2, looked at a 94 mph fastball that missed outside and lined to right to end the inning.
Tillman’s velocity appeared to be down a little in spring training, and he was 88-89 mph early in the first inning. But he crept into the low 90s and topped out at 94.
Tillman threw 21 pitches, 10 for strikes.
Keeping his pitch count down and picking up his tempo will be two key ingredients in tonight’s outing.
The Orioles wasted a two-on, no-out rally in the top of the first. Brian Roberts singled and Nick Markakis walked, but Rays starter James Shields struck out Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, and he retired Luke Scott on a long fly ball to center field.
Update: Tillman went to another three-ball count before walking Matt Joyce with two outs in the second inning. He struck out Kelly Shoppach on a high 91 mph fastball. Tillman has thrown 46 pitches, 24 for strikes.
He’ll need a few quick innings or it could be a Josh Rupe kind of night.