While a few young Orioles pitchers are trying to find some consistent big league success and live up to their potential, the one that has taken his game to the next level is Chris Tillman, who will start this afternoon at Detroit.
From 2009-11, Tillman made 36 starts for the Orioles, going 7-15 with an ERA of 5.58. Since the start of last season, Tillman has made 29 starts with the O’s, going 16-5 with a 3.26 ERA.
Tillman finally has put it together at a time when other young O’s hurlers have not been able to do so. So how did Tillman turn it around?
“I had a couple tough years there and we just came up with a game plan in spring training (of 2012) and watched some video and I did that (biomechanical) analysis, did a whole bunch of different things,” he said. “We put some programs together and I worked on it in the first half of 2012 in Triple-A and I think it all came together for me.”
Tillman explained how the biomechanical analysis helped him get better.
“It showed the scientific part of my delivery,” he said. “I think Rick Adair took a look at it and saw some things, along with Rick Peterson and Mike Griffin. It showed me my weak points and we put together some drills to work on those weaknesses.”
Those drills also led Tillman to do some tweaking of his windup and delivery. He made some slight adjustments there that have paid off for him.
“I think it’s important for me and definitely helped me be more consistent and more confident because I can trust my delivery and I know how to make the adjustments to get back to where I need to be,” Tillman said. “In the past that was something I struggled with. I made it more efficient, not as much movement. Calmed everything down so I can repeat it.”
So yes, those coaches helped Tillman but, let’s not forget to give the right-hander himself some credit. He worked out over the winter with Brady Anderson to improve his conditioning.
Then he came to spring training this year not with the mindset of a pitcher that went 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA last summer, but with the intensity of a pitcher who was not guaranteed a rotation spot and felt he needed to win one.
“That is how you have to look at it,” Tillman said of his approach this spring. “The second you become complacent, this game will kick you in the butt. I knew I had to compete for a job. We’re winning now. It’s the best 25 guys.”
As you can tell, Tillman won’t allow himself to think he has turned any corners here. He wants to continue to push himself to do what it takes to be good. But according to the results, he has turned a corner. Maybe other young pitchers looking to do the same can learn from him.
What should other struggling young pitchers look to do to get better?
“There are a lot of things,” Tillman said. “There is a learning curve you need to experience. You learn from your failures and I had a lot of failures early in my career. You just have to find your niche, pick certain things and go with it.”