SARASOTA, Fla. - Chris Tillman became the first Orioles starter to pitch five innings this spring. He came out for, but didn't make it through the sixth.
After shutting out the Yankees through five, Tillman allowed a leadoff homer to No. 9 hitter Francisco Arcia leading off the sixth and then was pulled for Zach Britton.
It was, statistically, easily Tillman's best outing this spring as he went five-plus innings, allowing three hits and one run. He walked two and fanned five, throwing 73 pitches, 46 for strikes.
"I felt good," Tillman said. "I made some good pitches, I was mixing them today as opposed to going out and just trying to establish fastball command. I felt good physically and felt good coming out of it."
With the season fast approaching, do the games begin to feel more like regular season games now?
"It always does for me, the preparation," Tillman said. "You've got to prepare like it is a real game. I knew what I wanted to work on today, mix it up just like I would in a normal game. We are getting close. You have to dial it up a little bit.
"I didn't know what the plan was going in, but after the fifth, they asked me if I wanted one more hitter and I said, 'Sure. I might as well get up the sixth time.' I think that's important, to get up and down, And I think we established what we needed to do today."
In his first three starts this spring, Tillman had allowed 11 hits and eight runs (six earned) over 7 2/3 innings. He gave up five runs over 3 1/3 innings in his last start against Pittsburgh.
Tillman said he felt he's pitched as well as he did today in the earlier games, but the results were clearly better. Tillman seems on course to get his 2014 season started. The O's have yet to name their opening day starter, but obviously Tillman is a strong candidate.