Tillman trying to keep rotation moving in right direction

The rotation is rolling. Three quality starts in a row and six in the first 13 games. Modest mileage on the surface, but noteworthy if considering how far the group pushed back the team in 2017.

The Orioles will find out tonight whether Chris Tillman can maintain it and get himself moving in the right direction.

Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner worked seven innings in consecutive outings against the Blue Jays and Kevin Gausman completed the sixth Wednesday night at Camden Yards. A total of five runs surrendered over 20 innings, none from Cashner.

The rotation’s 4.37 ERA ranked 19th in the majors heading into last night while the Red Sox were first with a 2.25 ERA. The Orioles also were 23rd with a 1.43 WHIP and the Red Sox were fourth at 1.10.

Chris-Tillman-gray-throwing.jpgThe Orioles are set to make a significant change, of course, with Alex Cobb debuting Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park. Tillman holds onto his spot, as expected, but Mike Wright Jr. isn’t listed among the probables for the four-game series.

Whether Wright is further impacted by Cobb’s addition to the roster will be known on Saturday as the Orioles create a spot.

The past three games have offered encouragement regarding the rotation, at least on paper, as Showalter noted after Wednesday’s 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays that prevented a sweep.

“We hope so,” he said. “We know how quickly things can change. I think somebody said (David) Price came out of (Wednesday’s) game. It’s one cock of your arm and the whole dynamic changes and your depth is very open to see.

“I’d love to think that we’re going to have these five starters all year and stay healthy, but ... I’m hoping once Alex settles in and guys can stay healthy that we can really kind of find our step, especially in the bullpen.”

The signings of Cashner and Cobb were met with enthusiastic approval back in spring training and the anticipation is building for the latter’s first start. He’s up to six innings and 90-plus pitches via simulated and extended spring training games and he worked out Wednesday afternoon in Bowie.

“I can see the normalcy starting to take place where I will be with the team,” Cobb told MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski. “Watching them on TV, I’m real excited to get in the locker room and see the energy these guys bring. And hopefully bring some excitement to the team as well and put some quality starts together so we can get a nice run going.

“I feel like I just left spring training. You’re sharp a lot of days and some days you are a little bit off. And as the season goes on, that kind of plays itself out and you start getting more sharp and the adjustments come a lot easier. I feel pretty normal to where I would be after spring training heading up north for the season.”

He might get the last crack at decent weather in Boston, where lots of rain is in the forecast for the final two days. I’m talking 80-100 percent. It’s only around 40 percent on Saturday.

Sarcasm alert: Let’s have a bunch of delays because one marathon in Boston just isn’t enough.

The rotation posted a 5.70 ERA last year that ranked, in case you somehow forgot or maybe deliberately blocked from your mind, as the worst in club history. Cashner and Cobb, the latter exceeding Ubaldo JimĂ©nez’s franchise-record deal at four years and $57 million, are supposed to fix it, though the burden also falls upon Bundy and Gausman to “take the next step” and Tillman to sprint away from last year’s disastrous season.

“It’s one thing I’ve said from Day One,” Gausman said. “With Cashner and Cobb, it’s two more veteran guys that are going to eat innings. Every fifth day, you’re going to give your team a chance to win. In the AL East, that’s really all you can ask for.

“Obviously, we’re excited to have (Cobb). I’m excited to watch him pitch for the first time in our jersey.”

But first, it’s Tillman’s turn again after he allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings at Yankee Stadium. He’s surrendered nine runs and 15 hits with eight walks over 9 1/3 innings in his two starts, and his three wild pitches were tied for the major league lead before last night.

Tillman is 10-4 with a 3.03 ERA and 1.388 WHIP in 21 career starts against the Red Sox and 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA and 1.367 WHIP in nine starts at Fenway Park, where the visiting clubhouse supposedly has undergone some sort of renovation. Maybe the paint was scraped off the walls to provide more space.

But I digress ...

Xander Bogaerts is 3-for-23 against Tillman, but he went on the disabled list this week with a cracked bone in his left ankle. J.D. Martinez is 2-for-14 with a home run.

Jackie Bradley Jr. is 6-for-16 with a double, triple, home run and six strikeouts, and Brock Holt is 7-for-13.

The presence of Eduardo Rodriguez on the mound tonight allows fans to revisit and continue to debate the Andrew Miller trade. Debuting late this year following surgery on his right knee, Rodriguez worked 3 2/3 innings Sunday against the Rays and allowed three runs and five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. He threw 92 pitches, unable to put away hitters with his signature changeup.

Tonight marks Rodriguez’s 11th career start against the Orioles. He’s 3-5 with a 4.67 ERA and 1.222 WHIP in 54 innings and is averaging 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

Adam Jones is 6-for-25 (.240), but he has two doubles and two home runs. Chris Davis is 5-for-24 (.208) with one home run and 11 strikeouts.

Left-handers are batting .272 against Rodriguez in the majors and right-handers are hitting .239. More reverse splits.

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