Part of manager Buck Showalter’s day was spent chatting with Chris Tillman, who didn’t record an out in the third inning last night and was charged with five earned runs (seven total) to raise his ERA to 8.10.
Showalter said he was trying to get “some feedback” from Tillman - what he’s feeling and thinking.
“Got a better idea,” Showalter said. “Always try to talk to guys when they’ve had a couple of starts or whatever that haven’t been what they’re capable of.
“Nobody understands it more than Chris. It’s been frustrating for him. He’s had, what, 15 starts? Very uncharacteristic. Sometimes, it’s good and also bad that we have such a track record with him, what he’s capable of.”
The disabled list isn’t under consideration. Tillman insists that he’s good physically and the Orioles can’t force him on it. If there’s any shoulder weakness, it’s not impacting his velocity.
“He’s throwing the ball harder than he has in the last two or three years. He was throwing the ball 92-94 last night.”
Strength of the shoulder isn’t the same as the health of it. Showalter said it wouldn’t be a DL situation, and again, there’s no proof that it’s a physical issue.
“If they’re saying they’re fine, we’re not going to invent some DL,” Showalter said. “If Chris says he’s fine, I believe him.”
The Orioles can keep Tillman in their six-man rotation or move him to the bullpen. Showalter is listing only two choices and, trying to read between the lines, relief seems more likely. However, nothing is official.
Showalter wants to get back to a four-man bench, which is tough if a team is carrying five starters and eight relievers. Same with six starters and seven relievers. The math doesn’t work.
“I think we’re leaning toward one way more than the other, but not quite there yet,” Showalter said. “Because we had to use Miguel (Castro) so deep last night, we’re going to kind of wait and see how Gaus (Kevin Gausman) does tonight, how much we have to use the ‘pen before we have to make any adjustments in our pitching staff.
“We’ve got a couple ways we’re going to go, depending on how things go tonight. If you look at their lineup and you look at LA’s lineup and you look at Oakland’s lineup, I’ve been looking at their starting lineups against right-handed starters, you get a feel for how much certain guys might play against certain teams tonight and the next two series before you make moves, so you can keep some continuity without making a lot of moves.”
Castro replaced Tillman last night and tossed six scoreless innings with only one hit. The Orioles consider him a starting candidate in the future, but they need him in the bullpen, which no longer has a revolving door at the entrance.
Remember when they changed relievers like sanitary socks?
“There’s the old thing about robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Showalter said. “This guy was a starter by trade before Toronto put him in the bullpen at 20, 21, whatever it was. He’s been starting. He’s been to 70 pitches before last night. He’s certainly earned the right to stay here and not be sent out because we need a pitcher. He certainly presented himself as an option to start down the road. That’s kind of the way we’ve always looked at him.
“It’s kind of like making a guy play his way off shortstop, make him play his way off center field or catcher before you start moving him somewhere else. You’re always going to look at guys as a starter, but you’ve also got to look at here and how your team is constructed. He’s certainly served a purpose in our bullpen, but there’s that potential for him to start down the road and that’s how we hope it works out at some point.”
In the meantime, the Orioles must figure out what to do with Tillman while also sympathizing with his plight. He’s been their ace and he remains one of the clubhouse leaders. It isn’t easy to watch him struggle. Fans aren’t the only ones pained by it.
“You know how good he’s capable of being, and all indications are he’s healthy from all the things you talk about,” Showalter said. “We’re hired to figure out why, and that’s tough because it’s been a challenge. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out things.
“If I told you all the different adjustments and stuff you try to make and the film and all the things that are going on ... Sometimes, it’s not necessarily good to have that much history with a guy, but it also helps you make better decisions when you know the guy. And there’s nobody who wants to post up every fifth day more than Chris Tillman, and any frustration someone may have with it, whether it be a fan or coach or somebody in the front office, believe me, you can triple it where Chris is concerned because it does bother him. And sometimes you can want something too much.
“Command of the fastball has been a real challenge for him. You guys see where the catcher’s setting up and where he’s missing. That just doesn’t work. But he’s not the only one, OK? He’s not the only one. We’ve had some challenges there in other places.”
Update: Jim Adduci homered off Kevin Gausman with one out in the top of the first inning to give Detroit a 1-0 lead.
Update II: Tim Beckham strikes again. His home run leading off the bottom of the second inning tied the game 1-1.
Beckham is 8-for-13 with three doubles, a triple and two home runs with the Orioles.
Update III: Manny Machado hit his first home run since the break, an opposite-field solo shot in the third to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
Update IV: Justin Upton hit a grand slam off Mychal Givens in the eighth inning to give the Tigers a 5-2 lead.
Givens hadn’t allowed a run in his last 12 appearances.