Has a pitcher ever been sent to the minor leagues where his ERA was 1.33 in his last four starts?
Yes, Chris Tillman in May by the Orioles. I had to double check, but Tillman's ERA in those final four starts before he was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk was that good. But he was continually struggling to get deep into games and unable to be pitch efficient with command issues then.
While Tillman gave up just three earned runs in those last four starts in the majors before today, he pitched just 20 1/3 innings. In his last three starts then, he pitched five innings on 88 pitches, five on 97 and 4 1/3 on 102 pitches in that last outing May 27 at Oakland.
We'll see if he can throw more strikes today, get ahead of more hitters and get deeper into the game against a tough team and lineup.
It doesn't appear that he made too much progress on that front in the minor leagues. Tillman was 3-3 with an ERA of 4.17 in ten starts with the Tides. But he covered just 49 2/3 in the ten outings.
In his last two Triple-A starts, coming into today, he had a six-inning game where he needed to throw 98 pitches and a six-inning outing with 100 pitches.
He has reversed the trend in the first two innings today at Yankee Stadium, retiring the first six Yankees on just 24 pitches with four strikeouts. So far, so good for the right-hander in his return to the majors.
Updated: Tillman struggled after the promising start today and gives up seven runs (five earned) on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings, throwing 80 pitches. His ERA increased to 5.16. It is the second most runs he allowed in the majors this year, behind only the eight runs allowed in 3 2/3 on May 5 against Kansas City.