Chris Tillman was pleased with yesterday’s bullpen session at Camden Yards and said his right shoulder felt great today. He’s expected to throw again on Monday and Wednesday before heading back to Sarasota to pitch live batting practice on April 8 and start an extended spring game on April 11.
“I went actually better than I was expecting,” Tillman said. “It felt good. No issues, no nothing.
“No complaints. It was good.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter also was encouraged by the session.
“Great. It went really well and he feels good today,” Showalter said. “Plus, he liked throwing inside. Guys throwing inside, the mitt makes a louder noise. It looks like you’re throwing harder. No, that was real encouraging. I think he might be on his way. You guys have got that schedule. He’s right on it.”
Tillman has started the last three opening days, but Kevin Gausman gets the assignment Monday and whatever advice is available to him.
“We talked a little bit,” Tillman said. “The biggest challenge is slowing yourself down and trying not to do too much. Regardless of how good you are, it’s going to be tough to control your emotions and stuff. I think that’s the biggest part of it.
“He asked me if it compares to the playoffs and I said, ‘No.’ It’s hard to do that. In the playoffs you’ve already played 162 games. Then it’s just another start. This is the first game, you haven’t really done much. I feel like there’s a lot more going on on Opening Day. I told him to try to control his emotions the best he can.”
Reliever Darren O’Day is at Camden Yards today and could be available on opening day. He stayed in Sarasota on Friday because of the flu.
“He’s just about back to 100 percent. Hopefully, by tomorrow he is,” Showalter said. “He had quite a bout with the flu. Anybody who’s had that stuff that’s going around, it’s a challenge.”
The Orioles will need to add a fourth starter on April 9 and a fifth starter on April 15 unless the weather alters the schedule. Showalter has a pretty good idea of which moves will be made to accommodate the pitchers.
“If you’re going by conventionality, we’ve got it lined up, and ways to wiggle, too,” he said. “If we had to do it now, we know what we would do, but some things and variables could play into it - weather and health. Let’s see where we are..”
“It takes some imagination,” he said. “Especially with the off-days and everything legal. But there’s a way to maneuver around and keep the ... You’re really with 11, but you’re still having seven in the ‘pen. There’s a way to do it, but it’s going to take some foresight and imagination as we go. Really tough to do it last year. This year’s got a chance to be easier, but you’ve got to stay on top of it. You’ve got to have cooperation with your staff in Norfolk and Bowie, but we’ll see what develops.”
The Orioles and Red Sox discussed numerous trade scenarios involving Rule 5 outfielder Aneury Tavárez, but failed to reach an agreement. Tavárez returned to the Red Sox organization and the Orioles placed Mancini, Rickard and Gentry on their opening day roster.
“There were a lot of different variables,” Showalter said. “Cleared waivers and we tried to work out a trade and didn’t really want to trade Manny (Machado) for him. No, I’m just kidding, but we liked him, just like we did when we took him in the Rule 5 and tried to make every step possible up until 8 or 9 o’clock this morning. Dan (Duquette) and I were looking at ways to keep him, but I think with a couple of emergences of some things and ... we must have talked six or seven variables to that.
“One was we could have just kept him. Are we going to keep him over (Hyun Soo) Kim or Seth (Smith)? We felt strongly that he had a chance and still do, and Boston does, too, because they took him back. But you aren’t always able to keep them. We’ve probably been way ahead of the curve.
“We felt like coming out of the draft that we would end up keeping one of them. (Anthony Santander) is still very much a part of it. We like him.”
The Orioles believe that center fielder Cedric Mullins, who moves up from low Single-A Delmarva to Double-A Bowie, has a similar skill set to Tavárez. They weren’t going to surrender as much in a trade as they might have done in previous years.
Showalter didn’t reveal his opening day lineup and whether Seth Smith would lead off, as he did in Friday’s exhibition at Triple-A Norfolk, with Kim batting lower in the order.
“I’ve got an idea, a good idea. We’ve already done it, but I want to make sure everybody’s where I think they are physically before you make that commitment,” Showalter said. “It must be newsworthy, so I’ve got it. Is it that big of a story?”
Kim is expecting a warmer reception on his second opening day after hearing a smattering of boos last year caused by his refusal to accept an assignment to Triple-A Norfolk.
“I was talking with him in Norfolk (Friday) after he came out of the game and I said, ‘You know, you could have been here, you could have played here,’” Showalter said. “He loves Norfolk, the city and everything, but ... I couldn’t help myself. I just went over to him and said, ‘Remember this time last year?’ You could have been out in left field.’ No. But I think it’s a reminder to all of us about how things are perceived and how they really are reality-wise.
“I think it’s a real identifier of our fans, too. They saw that he was a good player and a hard trier and having a good year and respected his decisions and it worked out well for us and him. Tomorrow, I think he’ll get a different response.”
Opening day always is a special event at Camden Yards, but especially on the 25th anniversary of the ballpark.
“Through thick and thin, I know I’m biased, but what’s better?” Showalter said. “So many people have missed the essence of what gives a ballpark character. Obviously, it starts with the people who come and fill up the place. But it’s just so woven into the city and it’s not some relic. It’s America’s most beloved ballpark because it’s old? It’s America’s best park because it’s really good, and every year they do great work to keep it ...
“They’re constantly looking for ways to improve, whether it’s customer service, whether it’s food, whether it’s parking. I see all the work they do here in the offseason. They have a project every offseason.
“It’s the best. What makes it the best? It doesn’t look like, ‘Hey, let’s make a hill out in center field. Let’s cut out some niche out here where the ball will roll around crazy down the corner. Let’s put a big high fence here and a low fence there.’ It’s baseball the way it’s supposed to be. The warehouse was there a long ago. I’m not sure about the hotel that got stuck over there. That kind of screwed some things up, but the people who are staying there are probably happy about it.”
Fans asked to cite their favorite moments at Camden Yards often reference games managed by Showalter, including Robert Andino’s walk-off single to beat the Red Sox in the 2011 finale.
“Can you imagine that being one of the bigger moments when we were how many games out?” Showalter asked. “That was just, ‘Hey, we want you to feel our pain.’ That was mean. That was just mean, OK? Let’s be honest. ‘My God, we’re going down, but we’re taking you with us.’ Right?”
Before taking the field for today’s workout - and its new grass that looks incredible - Showalter reminded his players that games in April count just as much as the others.
“That took some really good math on my part,” he said. “If you look at our schedule in April, it really rings true, playing in our division most of the time, which is very important. There will be a lot of teams playing each other in our division. But I’m not going to say if things don’t go well early the season is over. Heck, it’s a long grind.
“It’s a constant test. It’s kind of like you have all these rehearsals, which is what spring training is. You go through all these different things. It’s almost like a play or a movie and you do all these rehearsals and then it’s opening. There’s a lot of different acts to a season, but tomorrow starts Act One. But we don’t get up the next morning and read the reviews to see if we’re going to stay open.”
Showalter has been hesitant to check the forecast, fearful of jinxing it.
“I just want the weather to be good, the beer to be cold, the baseball to be good and everybody have a great time and the Orioles win and they want to come back,” Showalter said.