Frederick, MD. - Showing a fastball that sat mostly between 88 and 91 mph, Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman allowed six runs over 6 1/3 innings tonight for Single-A Frederick against Wilmington at Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium. While it fell far short of anything close to a positive outing, Tillman did put together a string of three scoreless innings after a shaky start.
But with likely just one more rehab start left before his 30-day minor league rehab assignment runs out, Tillman has done little to encourage the Orioles to bring him back to the major league roster. His ERA is 7.59 through five games.
So it got better for him as the night went on, but Tillman’s outing got off to a bad start when he allowed a run in the first and four runs in the second as Frederick fell behind 5-0 to the Blue Rocks, a Kansas City Royals’ affiliate.
His second pitch of the game was hit for a leadoff homer by Wilmington right fielder Nick Heath. The second batter singled and advanced to third on Tillman’s throwing error on a pickoff attempt. But a strikeout and crazy double play that was scored 3-2-5-3-6 got Tillman out of that inning.
But he was scored on in the first inning for the third time in his five minor league rehab starts. His first-inning ERA in seven starts for the Orioles this year is 19.29.
The second inning started with a walk and hit by pitch followed by Tillman’s second error, this on a sac bunt - as he bounced the throw to first - to load the bases. Four runs would eventually score on two sac flies, an RBI single by No. 9 hitter Vance Vizcaino and Tillman’s wild pitch.
Through two innings he had thrown 48 pitches, 27 for strikes, and allowed five runs on three hits, two walks, a hit batter and wild pitch and two of his errors. That made two of those runs unearned.
But Tillman then threw a scoreless third with one walk and a 1-2-3 fourth on just eight pitches. He was at 72 pitches through four. The fourth was his best inning of the night as he got a pop to short, a fly out to left and a strikeout on a curveball. He pitched a 1-2-3 fifth on nine pitches to pretty much match that.
Wilmington scored a sixth run off him in the sixth on two singles, a stolen base and a wild pitch. Tillman came back out for the seventh, got a strikeout and then was replaced by right-hander Steven Klimek.
Tillman’s final line: 6 1/3 innings, five hits, six runs, four earned runs, three walks, four strikeouts, one homer, two wild pitches and one hit batter. He threw 102 pitches, 59 for strikes.
When Tillman left the game Frederick was down 6-3. In the last of the fourth, Keys No. 9 hitter Alejandro Juvier blasted a three-run homer to right. It was his first of the year. The Keys lost 8-3 as Tillman took the loss.
This was Tillman’s fifth rehab start in the minors for his fourth different affiliate. He started once for short season Single-A Aberdeen and once for Single-A Delmarva, and twice for Triple-A Norfolk. Through his first four games on the farm Tillman went 0-2 with an 8.40 ERA. Over 15 innings, he gave up 23 hits and 14 runs with eight walks and six strikeouts. In his last outing before tonight he went six innings on 84 pitches for Norfolk, allowing nine hits and four runs.
Tillman went on the disabled list this year on May 11 with a lower back strain. He had been rehabbing in Sarasota, Fla., leading up to these rehab starts with the various affiliates.
Before the DL stint, he went 1-5 with a 10.46 ERA over seven starts. In his last two Orioles starts - on May 3 versus the Angels and May 10 versus the Royals - he gave up 13 runs (12 earned) over 2 1/3 innings. In 31 games since the start of the 2017 season, Tillman is 2-12 with an 8.42 ERA.
Tillman post-start quotes:
On this outing compared to the other rehab starts: “About the same. I think I had the one crazy inning but other than that I felt like it went well. Felt like that’s how all of them have gone. One bad inning, one weird inning. For the rest of the game I felt like it was pretty solid. But I’ve been feeling really good. I’ve just got to get more consistent and get that bad inning out of the way. I feel like that’s been my whole career, but when I’m going good I’m able to eliminate that one inning. Got to keep working and find a way to stay out of a big inning.”
Any explanation for the many ups and downs in the rehab games?: “I can’t (explain it). If I could, I would fix it. That second inning killed me. I think we would have gone a lot deeper in that game if I didn’t throw that many pitches in that inning. Lot of weird stuff happened in that inning.”
Tillman on the quality of his pitches tonight: “For the most part, pretty good. I feel like it’s been getting better and better and better. The second inning is what it is, you have to move on. I felt like going forward I could make the adjustments, and felt like I did.”
Has he done enough to get back on the Orioles roster?: “I’ve felt ready to pitch. I mean, I don’t know. You know, I can’t make up their mind. Based off that second inning it would probably be a no. But off the rest of the game it would probably be a solid yes. That second inning wasn’t fun, wasn’t pleasant. But got through it and went another 4 1/3.”