This, that and the other

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles are sending Chris Tillman to the mound this afternoon for their game against the Yankees. The right-hander is making his third Grapefruit League start.

Will he be the starter again on opening day?

In setting up his rotation, manager Buck Showalter is checking how the candidates have fared against the Twins. He’s also checking their numbers against future opponents in April and in the other ballparks.

The only certainty at this point is that Tillman, Yovani Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez will break camp with the team. Kevin Gausman could go on the disabled list and still be eligible to return on April 9. Miguel Gonzalez is fighting for his spot.

Tillman-Throws-Orange-Sidebar.jpgFor what it’s worth, Tillman is 0-4 with a 4.82 ERA in six career starts against the Twins. Gallardo is 2-2 with a 3.14 ERA in eight starts. Jimenez is 4-3 with a 2.72 ERA in nine games (eight starts).

The opening day starter also gets the Rays in the next series at Camden Yards. Tillman is 5-9 with a 4.30 ERA in 20 starts against them. Gallardo is 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA in three starts. Jimenez is 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA in five starts.

The Orioles’ first road series is in Boston, and Showalter has checked the career records of his starters versus the Red Sox and at Fenway Park.

Tyler Wilson gets another start in spring training and he’s still under consideration for a spot in the rotation.

Wilson is an intelligent young man who can break down an at-bat in impressive fashion. Ask him about any particular point in a game and you quickly are reminded that he’s a pitcher, not just a thrower.

A classic example of Wilson’s analytical mind came yesterday when a member of the media asked him what happened on Chris Stewart’s comebacker in the second inning. Wilson went on to describe the pitch - where he intended it, where it finished - and how Stewart’s swing told him that the ball was headed back up the middle.

Meanwhile, we merely wanted to know where it hit him.

During John Jaso’s second at-bat yesterday, Wilson started him off with a changeup and breaking ball and retired the Pirates’ leadoff hitter on a ground ball to shortstop J.J. Hardy.

“That’s a sequence that you don’t see a lot,” Wilson said. “He’s definitely a fastball guy who looks for the ball in the middle of the plate, toward the inner-half of the plate. I threw him a good changeup to start 0-0 and it looked like his feet were still fastball, so I started to throw a slider that looked like a heater in, and it kind of broke off the plate and we got the result we were looking for.”

A pitcher, not a thrower.

Joey Rickard delivered a pinch-hit RBI single to bring home Xavier Avery with the winning run. Manager Buck Showalter wanted to test the Rule 5 pick with the game on the line. Tie score, Avery on third base, one out, veteran left-hander Eric O’Flaherty on the mound.

“Without a doubt,” Showalter said on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan. “You get very few of these looks. They’re going to go away and you’re trying to make good decisions for our fans and our players and put the best team out there. You better take advantage of these opportunities to get these looks and obviously Joey handled it well.”

Rickard is 12-for-22 during a nine-game hitting streak. He’s batting .388/.444/.571 with six doubles, a home run, seven RBIs, five walks and three stolen bases in 21 games.

Pedro Alvarez and Hyun Soo Kim will return to the lineup this afternoon. They received more at-bats yesterday at Twin Lakes Park, but they’re staying in the Grapefruit League the rest of the way.

Showalter wants to give Alvarez some innings at third base before the Orioles break camp.

We didn’t get a chance to check on Brian Matusz yesterday because he stayed home with the same flu that’s sweeping through the clubhouse. Showalter and the coaches haven’t been immune, either.

The bigger issue for Matusz is the strained muscle in his lower back that’s expected to keep him off the opening day roster.

“I think it’s going to be a real challenge, to be frank about it. That to think he’s going to have two or three outings next week and be ready,” Showalter said.

“He may mentally and emotionally think he is. Physically, you don’t want to create that doubt in a guy’s mind. You want them to be champing at the bit knowing they’re ready. And it’s going to be hard for Brian to get there.”

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