Talking Tillman, the farm and ratings (and Machado)

The Orioles are back home tonight against the Rays, and Zach Britton is back on the mound.

A Friday night, Britton pitching, a division rival. Let's hope for a little atmosphere at Camden Yards.

He'll need to stick around longer than Chris Tillman did in Kansas City. Tillman lasted only 3 2/3 innings yesterday and raised more concerns about his long-term future in the rotation and the organization.

Tillman's dragged down by a 7.16 ERA and much higher expectations. He's a riddle in some ways - capable of throwing six hitless innings in his debut and holding the White Sox to one run over five innings in another start, but also giving up eight runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings yesterday, and six runs and nine hits in 1 2/3 innings in New York.

In other ways, he's easy to figure out. Scouts will tell you his fastball is too straight, he pitches up in the strike zone, he needs to develop his secondary pitches, his velocity wavers - though he was 92-93 mph yesterday - and he doesn't exude enough confidence on the mound.

Some of these same scouts haven't given up on him, but they say he needs work.

My question: Where does it make more sense for Tillman to get that work?

If you don't think the Orioles are contending this season, you might want Tillman pitching up here every five days. They need to know what they've got. Make or break in 2011.

If you think the Orioles can make a run at a playoff berth, or that Tillman would be better served honing his craft at Triple-A Norfolk ... well, you want him in the minors.

The Orioles don't have many options right now. Alfredo Simon is likely to spend a few more weeks on his rehab assignment, according to president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail. Brian Matusz isn't expected to be activated until we're past the halfway point in May. Justin Duchscherer can't be activated before May 30. The Tides aren't offering many tasty alternatives.

Chris Jakubauskas got lit up yesterday after being optioned to Norfolk. More on that later.

Tillman could be skipped in the rotation next week because of Monday's open date, but it sounds like manager Buck Showalter intends to give him the ball again. It could be because he thinks Tillman's stuff is better than the results it brings. It could be because he doesn't have anyone else to take Tillman's place. It could be a combination of the two.

Down on the farm, Single-A Frederick's Tim Bascom threw six scoreless innings last night against Wilmington, allowing four hits and striking out seven in his first start after being transferred from Double-A Bowie.

First baseman Tyler Townsend had a home run and three RBIs. Sean Gleason notched his fifth save by striking out the side in the ninth.

Nick Green hit his fourth home run for Norfolk, a bases-empty shot. The Tides needed eight more of them, since they lost 9-1 to Indianapolis.

Jakubauskas allowed six runs and five hits - including two home runs - in two-plus innings. He also walked two and struck out two.

Josh Bell went 0-for-4, but the good news is he's back at third base after injuring his knee. And Ryan Adams had two more hits to raise his average to .320. I also should note that he's committed only two errors at second base.

I'm braced for bad news regarding prized shortstop prospect Manny Machado, who injured his left knee last night and had to be carried off the field. He's scheduled to undergo an MRI today.

It's not like Machado was involved in a collision or slid awkwardly into the bag. He tagged at second, was headed for third and collapsed in the dirt.

Can this organization catch a break?

Update: Maybe it did catch a break. Machado told MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski that he feels "fine" and hopes to get back into Delmarva's lineup in a few days.

I'll close this entry with a little ratings talk.

Ratings are up across the board for Orioles telecasts on MASN, according to Nielsen Research.

Through the first 26 games, the household audience in the Baltimore market overall was 24 percent larger than it was last year. That translated to an average of 61,208 area homes tuned to Orioles games this spring.

The best news for the team is that viewing is up in all demographics, including the younger ones.

The audience is up 33 percent year-to-year in men 18 to 34 years of age and 25 percent in men 25 to 54.

The audience is 55 percent larger than it was last year for all viewers 18 to 34. One thing that indicates: More young women are watching.

Are you one of them?

The Orioles' audience is more than twice as large in the D.C. market as it was last year.

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