Tillman battles to keep his spot in the rotation

Chris Tillman may not be pitching deep into many of his starts, but he is pitching pretty well. But with Brian Matusz nearing a return from the disabled, is Tillman pitching well enough to remain in the rotation?

After Sunday's outing against Washington, where he gave up just one run, Tillman's ERA is 1.13 over his past three starts, lowering his ERA on the year from 7.16 to 4.95.

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Tillman has allowed just two runs over 16 innings in those three starts and has given up just one run in four of his past five starts.

While the obsessing over Tillman's fastball velocity continues, sometimes we forget he has some quality pitches beyond his fastball. Matt Wieters said some of those pitches were working for him on Sunday.

"That was the best offspeed stuff he has had for sure all year. That's the offspeed stuff he had in the minor leagues when I caught him there. The breaking ball he could throw today was pretty good. That is how he should be able to pitch at this level. He has that kind of stuff," Wieters said.

Tillman felt he had some quality pitches working, as well.

"Yeah, I think that curveball has been there for me for a while. I stayed away from the changeup a little today (Sunday), but the cutter was one of my better pitches today. It was good to see that, finally found it," he said.

One troubling aspect of his game Sunday was that he needed 97 pitches to get through five innings.

"I was really frustrated with that," Tillman said. "These guys fouled off pitches and fouled off pitches. Do everything you can to get them to put it in play. At the same time, you fall behind 2-0 and 3-0 (and) it's not easy pitching like that. I made it tough on myself sometimes.

"But having all four of my pitches whenever I needed them was big. The cutter finally came around today and I got some big outs with that. Hopefully, I take what I had today into my bullpen and my next start."

A stat I have pointed out before is how Tillman has pitched pretty well in seven of his nine starts. He allowed 14 runs in two of his outings this year versus the Yankees and Rangers, but just 10 earned runs in his seven other starts. In those other seven games, Tillman's ERA is just 2.35 and the Orioles are 5-2.

As Matusz gets closer to taking someone's rotation spot, Tillman may be making his case for it not be his.

In the minor leagues: Mike Flacco of the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds has been named the South Atlantic League Player of the Week for May16-May 22. Flacco went 17-for-29 (.538) with seven doubles and five RBIs to earn the honor.

Flacco had five multi-hit games during the week, including a pair of four-hit nights. He went 4-for-4 with two runs and two doubles against Lakewood on May 17 and went 4-for-5 last night against Kannapolis. The 24-year old also had four RBIs against Kannapolis on May 20.

The 31st-round selection of the Orioles in 2009 watched his batting average skyrocket from .235 to .327 during this past week. He takes a season-high eight-game hitting streak into game four against Kannapolis on Monday night. In the current series against the Intimidators, Flacco is 9-for-14 (.624) with five runs, five doubles and five RBIs.

Meanwhile, Frederick Keys right-hander Bobby Bundy has been named Carolina League Pitcher of the Week for week of May 16-22. In Bundy's start on May 21st against the Kinston Indians, he tossed a season-high eight innings, struck out eight, and allowed one run on three hits.

In eight starts with the Keys in 2011, Bundy leads the team in wins (4), ERA (2.42), innings pitched (44.2), and strikeouts (43). His ERA of 2.42 is currently eighth in the Carolina League while his 43 strikeouts is tops among Orioles' farmhands. Entering 2011, Bundy was rated by Baseball America as the #14 prospect in the Orioles' organization.

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