Should O's fans have concerns about Chris Tillman?

The one pitcher in the O's projected starting rotation for this year whose position seems a bit shaky heading to camp is Chris Tillman.

Some feel he needs more minor league experience and have concerns that he seemed to struggle last year after some initial Major League success.

After going 8-6, 2.70 in 18 starts at Triple-A, the right hander made his Major League debut July 29 versus KC and went 2-5, 5.40 in 12 Orioles' starts.

But after going 1-2, 4.24 in seven July and August outings, Tillman went 1-3, 7.30 in five September starts.

Did he struggle to improve or was he just tiring?

He did pitch a career-high 162 innings in 2009 - that's 26 more than he pitched in 2008.

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He also did not get a lot of help from Orioles hitters, which made his job that much tougher. While he was in the game, the O's scored two runs or less in nine of his 12 starts.

No one should forget that Tillman entered 2009 as the club's top pitching prospect and second overall prospect behind only Matt Wieters.

We also should not forget that he is still just 21. Tillman will not turn 22 until April 15th. Brad Bergesen, who, like Tillman, was drafted out of high school, began the 2007 year at Delmarva at the age of 21.

Tillman's fastball and curve sure look Major League quality. Some feel he needs better command and more fastball movement.

He also may need more experience.

O's pitchers career minor league innings:
399 - Chris Tillman
490 - Brad Bergesen
535 - David Hernandez
569 - Jeremy Guthrie
770 - Jim Johnson

Of course, Tillman could come to camp, pitch very well, light up the radar gun, cement his rotation spot and never play in a minor league game again.

My feeling is that the one mistake some fans make is questioning Tillman's talent. This was and is an elite prospect. You can wonder if he has enough experience or is just too young yet, but Tillman's talent level appears quite high.

Some compare him to Brian Matusz and most pitching prospects would come up second to this lefty. He made the Majors with just 113 minor league innings then got better as he went on. He is a special case.

But Tillman is no slouch and should not take a backseat to too many hurlers. He has, as they say, amazing upside and a bright future.

But is the future now?

For more on Tillman, click here to read an article from a December interview with him on MASNsports.com.

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