Pregame notes from Lakeland (Tillman quotes, O’s win 4-2)

LAKELAND, Fla. - Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Danny Valencia was scratched from today’s lineup against Detroit due to a sore calf. He’s being held out as a precaution.

“Danny felt some soreness in his calf. Been playing a lot. Trainers felt like it would be a good idea to give him a day and not take any chances. I think he’ll be fine,” the skipper said.

Valencia hit a two-run homer yesterday and is 6-for-29 (.207) with three doubles, two home runs and six RBIs in 11 games after signing a minor league deal on March 2.

Showalter said Chris Davis and Caleb Joseph were expected to go to minor league camp today and get some at-bats. He hopes they get at least four at-bats and possibly as many as seven.

buck-showalter-smell-baseball.jpgWith rain in the forecast for tomorrow, Showalter said the Orioles already have a plan in place to play a simulated game Wednesday if needed in addition to the regular game to get pitchers their innings.

Both Nestor Cortes Jr. and Miguel Castro are scheduled to pitch tomorrow versus Tampa Bay. Showalter hopes they combine to go all nine innings. The same pair will likely split the game on Sunday as well. Hunter Harvey will start Wednesday in Tampa against the New York Yankees.

“That will be a nice test for him,” Showalter said.

Showalter said some O’s starters have built up their innings and pitch counts so well that they may shorten up a few of them in their final starts.

Chris Tillman makes his second Grapefruit League start today amid much scrutiny. The Orioles are certainly hoping for better results. Last Tuesday in Fort Myers, he went two innings plus four batters against Minnesota. He walked six of 14 batters, allowed four runs and three hits and threw just 27 of 62 pitches for strikes.

“I have confidence that the results will get better,” Showalter said. “He feels good physically. Just hoping today is the start of that. If not, the next one. If you told me he’d struggle statistically in spring and pitch real well during the season, I’d be okay with that ... Maybe to change the subject matter it would be good (for Tillman to throw well today).”

Tillman put up a zero in the first today after allowing back-to-back singles to start the inning. And he got the middle of the order out to do it. Miguel Cabrera lined to center and then Nicholas Castellanos and Victor Martinez flied out.

Tillman threw 21 pitches in the frame and his fastball ranged between 90 and 92 mph on the Joker Marchant Stadium radar gun.

Update: Tillman pitched a 1-2-3, 10-pitch last of the second before allowing a run in the third that cut the Orioles’ lead to 2-1.

Dixon Machado led off the Tigers third with a double and went to third on a flyout before scoring on Jeimer Candelario’s double to right. Tillman got two groundouts to strand him at second.

Through three, Tillman is at 51 pitches with his fastball still sitting in the 90 to 92 mph range. He has used his curveball often today.

The O’s took a 1-0 lead in the second off right-hander Michael Fulmer. Chance Sisco tripled and scored on a Luis Sardiñas groundout. An inning later, Alex Presley singled, stole second and scored on a Pedro Álvarez single.

Presley is 2-for-2 today and now batting .361 this spring. Sisco is 2-for-2 with a triple and double and now batting .393.

Update II: Tillman is through five innings with a 2-1 lead at 78 pitches. He has allowed six hits and one run without a single walk or strikeout. There has been some hard-hit balls, but this has been a big improvement on his outing Tuesday. He got some help from his defense in the fifth after Machado’s leadoff double. He reached third on a bunt and then was cut down at the plate when first baseman Álvarez threw to Sisco to record the out.

Update III: Tillman came out after the fifth. His final pitch count was 78 with 49 strikes. Pedro Araujo came on to pitch in the last of the sixth. In the top of the frame, Jomar Reyes hit a two-run homer to left off Caleb Thielbar for a 4-1 lead. Obviously, this outing was much better than Tillman’s Tuesday start when he walked six of 14 batters faced.

Update IV: Some Tillman postgame quotes:

On having a better outing than Tuesday: “It was better, much better. I was able to use all my pitches when I needed for the most part. I felt like everything got better towards the end. Fastball command was much better, had some quick innings and had some innings where I had to work.”

On getting it rolling during a 10-pitch second inning: “Definitely got on track there in the second and even the third. Anytime you get a quick inning, get the guys back in the dugout, it helps. Especially when it’s warm out. I was happy with it. There was some hard contact, little fortunate there, but I’m happy to make pitches with all of them.”

On importance of getting good results today: “This close to the season, yeah. I think you want to see some results. Especially more so for the staff and your teammates. They don’t want to roll into the season, seeing you going out there and giving it up. It was good. It’s good to go out there and get rolling and get five under me. Felt good.”

On getting solid results today as reinforcement to show he’s improved: “I think that’s important. You always want to see results. But I think it’s the process that counts. We’ve still got a long way to go. There are a lot of things I could have done better today and I’ll look forward to doing that next time. For the most part, I was trying to attack up. You know kind of be more myself. But I did make a lot good pitches down in the zone and that’s always a positive.”

On a good test against the Detroit starters: “That is a good lineup. You definitely have to navigate them the right way. A couple of times there with guys in scoring position and an open base I was trying to pitch around some guys and they ended up getting themselves out. So I like when that happens. Because if I did pitch around them, we’d be talking about walks now.”

Update V: The Orioles beat the Tigers 4-2. Jimmy Yacabonis pitched a scoreless ninth inning, giving up a single to Chad Huffman and striking out Niko Goodrum.

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