Last night it went from bad to worse for the right-hander who once was the club’s top starting pitcher and an opening day starter. It is tough to watch a pitcher with such a different past struggle so badly.
Last year Tillman went 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA. After he pitched at Houston April 2, he insisted we would not see a repeat of that this year.
“Oh yeah. It’s much different,” he said. “I didn’t have anything last year. I have quite a bit (now). Tonight didn’t go as I planned or as we planned but going forward, I think, it’s going to get better,” he said.
Only it has gotten worse for a pitcher with a lot of heart, just not much on his pitches right now. He’s 0-3 with a 11.91 ERA, allowing a combined 32 hits and walks over 11 1/3 innings. His average fastball velocity has been 89.8 mph, 89.0 mph and 89.7 mph in his three games. Lefty batters are hitting .550 (11-for-20) against him and right-handers are batting .344 (11-for-32). His ERA is 15.00 in the first inning this year.
In the 2016 season, Tillman made 30 starts for Baltimore and the Orioles went 22-8. Since the beginning of last year, he is 1-10 with a 8.28 ERA and the Orioles are 8-14 in his 22 starts.
The starting rotation had some momentum heading to Boston after the Toronto series, but that got derailed Friday night. Now Alex Cobb is being counted on to pitch well in his O’s debut today.
The Orioles rotation ERA for the year is 5.01. But take away the three Tillman starts and it is 3.68. There is the rub. The O’s starters have a chance to be solid this year, but Tillman is the weak link right now and not close to solid.
In a season that may be the last run for a core group of pending free agents, can the Orioles afford to give Tillman many more chances? I wrote that sentence, but I sure didn’t enjoy it. This guy has been a leader, a stand up guy, a great teammate and easy to work with for reporters, in good times and bad. Who among us doesn’t want Tillman to be his old self?
But it’s not close right now. Cutting ties with a former rotation stalwart after three games this year would be unlike the Orioles. But at the same time, how many teams would use a pitcher with a 8.28 ERA since the start of the 2017 season?
The Orioles have a problem to address here. One that no one wants involving a player that had been so good for so long.
A milestone for Kendall: Congrats are in order for Double-A Bowie manager Gary Kendall. Tonight he will manage his 1,000th game for the Baysox since taking over as skipper in 2011. He led Bowie to its first and only Eastern League championship in 2015.
I’ve known few in this organization over the years that loves being an Oriole to the extent Kendall does. Whenever I know I’m making a Bowie trip I can’t wait to get there to talk baseball with him.
He truly bleeds orange and black and has a burning desire to win. A few years ago, after Kevin Gausman struggled in a rehab game there, Gausman told me he was most disappointed about not helping Kendall get a win, since he is so driven to win.
He’s among the best people and best minor league managers I’ve had the chance to know and I’ve been around the game a long time.
Congrats to Kendall on No. 1,000 tonight.
If you missed my pregame segment on “O’s Xtra” on MASN last night to talk about the Orioles minors, click here to check it out.