HOUSTON - If, as expected, the Orioles add Double-A Bowie left-handed reliever Ashur Tolliver to their roster today to replace the recently traded Brian Matusz, the move will very likely be popular among O's minor league staff and players.
They will be excited to see a career minor leaguer get his shot. Tolliver is no pitching version of Crash Davis, but he has been hurling baseballs on the O's farm since 2009. He has never pitched above Double-A, but it looks like he will now.
He's also from Little Rock, Ark., and it worked out before when the Orioles added a player from there. Brooks Robinson went to the Hall of Fame.
Tolliver has been with Bowie since the 2014 season. This year, the lefty is 1-1 with two saves and a 2.42 ERA. Over 26 innings, he has allowed 22 hits with eight walks, 25 strikeouts and a .237 average against. He has a career walk rate of 3.1 per nine innings with a strikeout/nine innings rate of 8.5.
The scouting report on Tolliver is that he throws a fastball, changeup and curveball, with his fastball often sitting in the 92-93 mph range and touching 95 mph. His changeup is considered his top secondary pitch and has been an effective pitch to help him get right-handed batters out. His curveball could use some improving and if Tolliver can do so, it will help against lefty hitters. He can and has thrown multiple innings, and this year he yields an average of .212 versus lefty batters and .250 against right-handed hitters.
The Orioles drafted Tolliver in the fifth round in 2009 out of then NAIA power Oklahoma City. He had transferred from Arkansas-Little Rock. Tolliver signed for $200,000. A member of Bowie's Eastern League champs last season, Tolliver this year was a spring training invitee to major league camp, where he got into a few spring games for the Orioles, allowing one run and three hits over four innings.
Draft pick traded: The only draft picks that can be traded in major league baseball are competitive balance picks and the O's parted with one yesterday when they traded Matusz to Atlanta. The Braves got the No. 76 overall pick in Competitive Balance Round B, which follows the second round and precedes the third round.
The slot value of that pick is $838,900, which is the amount now the Braves add with that pick to their total draft pool and the O's lose that amount. The Orioles earlier lost the No. 14 selection when they signed right-hander Yovani Gallardo. That pick's value is $2.97 million. So the two lost picks together have a total pool value of $3,808,900.
The O's total pool to sign their top 10 rounds picks was $7,545,800 before losing the 76th pick. Now the total pool allotment is $6,706,900.
The O's did have five of the first 91 picks in the draft, which will be held from June 9-11. Now that is down to four selections, with picks at Nos. 27, 54, 69 and 91. They will have 11 picks over the first 10 rounds.
Tillman time: The Orioles' road trip resumes in this town tonight when they play the Houston Astros in the first of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park. Chris Tillman (6-1, 2.61 ERA) pitches against right-hander Doug Fister (4-3, 4.22 ERA).
Tillman is having a very strong year for the Orioles. He is 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA over his last six outings, posting six consecutive quality starts. The Orioles are 8-1 in his nine starts.
In Anaheim, manager Buck Showalter was asked about Tillman's 2016 season and motivation to have a better year than he did last year.
"He's a tough grader," Showalter said. "He expects excellence every time out. I think the slider has been a better pitch for him this year. He's got multiple ways of getting you out now. He can slow you down or speed you up."
The Orioles rotation had a recent run of 13 quality starts over 17 games. But over their last seven games, the Orioles have two quality starts (by Tillman and Kevin Gausman) with a rotation ERA of 5.95. Tillman will try to make that number look better tonight and pitch the Orioles to victory in the series opener.