Aberdeen, MD. - Before last night’s Orioles game in Washington, manager Buck Showalter was asked about right-hander Chris Tillman. At the moment of Showalter’s pregame interview at Nationals Park, Tillman was less than two hours away from pitching for short-season Single-A Aberdeen at Ripken Stadium to begin an injury-rehab assignment.
“I want to see him get people out and pitch well,” Showalter said of Tillman, who last pitched for the Orioles on May 10. “Really, that sounds simple, but I think for Chris’ sake, regardless of what level you’re playing at, if you’re hoping to return here and regain some form, then you should be able to do well at the levels behind this level. I want to see him get people out and have good outings.”
Tillman went out last night and had a good inning, but not a good outing.
During a very shaky, 35-pitch first inning, he walked two of the first three batters he faced, sandwiched around a seeing-eye groundball single, and also threw two wild pitches. Tillman gave up three runs in that inning to the Tri-City ValleyCats, a Houston Astros affiliate. Then he sailed quickly through a 1-2-3 second inning on just eight pitches. The two innings could not have been much more different.
“First one, timing was a little off,” Tillman said. “It was good to get back in a game situation, though. Second inning, slowed everything down and timing kind of came around and it got better.”
During a post-start interview, I asked Tillman if the Orioles have given him any assurance that they will bring him back to their active roster? He indicated they have not given such an assurance.
“I haven’t really talked to anybody, to tell you the truth,” Tillman said. “I really haven’t. I’ve been dealing with the guys down in Sarasota and that’s all I’ve really been doing. I really haven’t talked to anyone in Baltimore, other than the players.”
Tillman must certainly be keenly aware that he is going to have to show positive results during this rehab assignment - just as Showalter said - to have any chance to make it back to Baltimore.
Tillman has pitched to a 10.46 ERA in seven starts this year before going on the disabled list on May 11 with a lower back strain. Since the beginning of last season, he is 2-12 with an 8.42 ERA. His reduced velocity was also an issue, and last night he sat often at 88 and 89 mph, sometimes touching 90.
Tillman said it was tough to be away from the Orioles the last several weeks as he rehabbed in Sarasota. Now he’ll try to regain his form and work his way back. The odds are against him and fans are understandably skeptical Tillman will ever again regain his previous form.
“It’s tough, but I know I’ve got to focus on myself, get myself better to where I’m capable of helping the team like everyone knows I’m capable of doing. I can’t go out there and put the team in jeopardy. I have a lot of work to do still,” he said.
For one night, pitching in short-season ball, Tillman had a good inning but not a good outing, and now he’ll move on and look for progress when he pitches next, which will likely be Monday for Single-A Delmarva.
O’s get a shutout: The Orioles picked up their fourth shutout of the year last night with a 3-0 win at Washington on a combined five-hitter from five pitchers. The previous three shutouts were by 6-0 on April 27 versus Detroit, with Tillman as the starter. The O’s beat Tampa Bay 2-0 on the road May 25 when David Hess got the start. They beat the Mets on the road 1-0 behind Dylan Bundy on June 6.
Mark Trumbo hit a two-run homer last night. From May 20 to June 16 the Orioles hit 18 consecutive solo homers. Now, four of their past six have been two-run home runs.
Trumbo may be starting to hit with some power. Over his last four games, he is 6-for-15 with two doubles, two homers and four RBIs. Trumbo hit three homers in his first 36 games and now has hit two in the last three games. In this four-game stretch, Trumbo’s slugging improved from .377 to .434, and his OPS went from .682 to .753.
O’s center fielder Adam Jones went 2-for-4 with a double last night and is now batting a season-high .296. Jones is batting .419 (13-for-31) during a seven-game hitting streak, with three doubles and two RBIs. Jones hit .248 in April and .327 in May. In 15 games this month he is batting .349/.397/.444 with an OPS of .842.