When watching Chris Tillman pitch on Saturday against Tampa in his first 2011 start, it seemed to me that Tillman was not throwing with the velocity he once had shown.
Tillman's first-inning fastball at times was in the high 80s and there didn't seem to be too many mid-90s heaters during that game.
The right-hander said if anyone wondered if he were pitching with less velocity now than he did at times at Triple-A, that might just be true.
"It might be, but I am more working on commanding the baseball now. That's more important," he said. "If I need it, it's there. You know. it's not that I don't have it anymore. But I'd rather be able to throw more strikes, be more efficient with my pitches and be able to work with all my pitches than just throw hard.
"In the minors, I could get by just throwing it by guys. But you can't do that here. I've learned that."
For sure, velocity is not everything and it can be overrated. If you get the results Tillman got versus Tampa - six innings of no-hit ball - who cares what the radar gun said?
As he gets ready to take the mound for his second start of the season tonight, we will find out if Tillman can produce the consistency he is striving for.
When I asked him this week what he needs to do to take the Triple-A success he has had and translate that to the majors, Tillman said it would take greater consistency and the ability to make adjustments - not only from game to game, but from pitch to pitch.
Tillman's season debut Saturday had to be most encouraging for him. He was lifted from that game as his pitch count was at 101 after recording 18 outs.
"It was a good start, but I still have to command my fastball better," Tillman said.
Tillman is trying to finally get off the Norfolk-to-Baltimore-and-back shuttle. Over the last two years, he has spent many nights in both Harbor Park and Camden Yards.
Over 39 Tides starts in 2009 and 2010, he went 19-13 with a 3.06 ERA. But in 23 Orioles starts during that time, he was 4-10 with a 5.61.
Some fans have begun to wonder if Tillman will ever produce the potential that was talked about. At the same time, he is still just 22 for a few more days and he would not be the first pitcher to take a while to put up solid major league numbers. It doesn't always happen right at the start.
It's Tillman's turn again, tonight at 7:05 p.m.
Update: Got word this morning on the rotation for the Delmarva Shorebirds as they open their season tonight at home against Greensboro. Luis Noel is the starter tonight and will be followed by Tim Adleman, Jacob Petit, Scott Copeland and Tim Berry.