Taking a closer look at Chris Tillman

Well, just a few days ago we were wondering if Chris Tillman would make the Orioles' roster and now he is starting the second game of the season.

That shows how much in a state of flux this rotation is in right now, due to injuries and pitchers getting hit with line drives

As Tillman gets ready to take the mound tonight against Tampa, fans may be wondering why Tillman's Triple-A success the last two years has not yet translated to big league success.

Over the past two seasons, Tillman has made 39 starts at Norfolk, going 19-13 with a 3.06 ERA. In that same time, over 23 Orioles' starts, he is 4-10 with a 5.61 ERA.

It's not like he hasn't put some really good starts together. He made 11 starts for the Orioles last year and gave up two earned runs or less in five of them. But he still finished, 2-5 with a 5.87 ERA in those 11 games. Yes, he was wildly inconsistent.

Right now, I am not sure what to make of Tillman. He seems a much more mature and focused pitcher than he maybe was a year or two ago, but still the results seem inconsistent. Maybe it simply is because he is still just 22, at least for two more weeks, and is still learning and developing.

By now he has had plenty of minor league seasoning. Tillman, a high school draft pick back in Round 2 in 2006, has pitched 520 minor league innings. Brad Bergesen, another high school draftee, pitched 503 in the minors and tomorrow's starter, Zach Britton, now has 538 minor league innings under his belt.

Here is an interesting Tillman stat from last year: Triple-A hitters batted .258 against him in 2010 while major league batters hit .255 off the right-hander. So he was actually a little tougher to hit in the majors.

But while Tillman averaged just 2.3 walks per nine innings in the minors last summer, he averaged 5.2 in the 11 Baltimore starts. As always, command and control are critical. But the batting average against was actually better for Tillman versus the big league batters.

Does that tell us that Tillman's stuff is plenty good enough for big league success?

It will be interesting to watch him this year. I don't think fans should be down on him at all. But let's see if this is the season where it begins to click for him and that minor league success begins to carry over.

What is your take on Tillman as he gets set for his 2011 season debut tonight?

Follow me on Twitter: @masnsteve.

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