Hernandez named 5th starter, Tillman to AAA

March 31, 2010 | Peter Dilutis

David Hernandez has been named 5th starter over Chris Tillman.

It is safe to say that I am disappointed in this move. I am excited to see what Hernandez can do as a starter, but I am upset that it comes at the expense of major league playing time for Chris Tillman.

Some quotes from Dave Trembley, courtesy of Roch Kubatko, regarding the Tillman situation.

“What we’re doing is the best thing for the team and for his development. He was put in a situation last year where he came up to the big leagues because of need. We had an awful lot of injuries and we had an awful lot of movement. He is going to be a fantastic major league pitcher for a long time, but there are some things that he needs to get better at, and we’d rather see him do that at Triple-A than in the big leagues.

I am going to take big issue with the “because of need” part. Chris Tillman did not come up last season because of need. Tillman came up because he had nothing left to prove in the minor leagues at that point in time.

Andy MacPhail made it perfectly clear, that he would not be rushing the young pitching prospects to the majors. Tillman came up for the last 2 months, in a season in which the O’s were making a push for 100 losses, and started his service time a year earlier than need be.

Chris Tillman was not going to be rushed to the majors in that situation. MacPhail would not do that.

I feel that it was the 100% right move to bring Tillman up last season. However, I am disappointed to see Trembley say something that so obviously isn’t the case.

I have no doubt that if Matusz struggled a bit last year and didn’t make the roster, Trembley would be saying the same thing about him being rushed, even though it clearly is not the case.

The other problem I have, is that since I 100% do not buy all of what Trembley says about Tillman, I wonder if these decisions are being made on a whim. Did Hernandez really earn a spot in ST because he pitched better than Tillman in 20 innings? Tillman did not pitch poorly; he had a 3.84 ERA in ST. Tillman didn’t lose his job; Hernandez gained it. I just do not feel that Hernandez, at his age and point in development, should have had the opportunity to gain it from Tillman. If Tillman was not going to open this season in the rotation, I felt that he had to lose it, which he did not.

How much thought is being put into these decisions? What was the outlook coming into ST? I do not see how Andy MacPhail brought Tillman up last year, saw him improve and flash his potential, and then sends him down as a loser of a 5th starter competition to a guy 3 years older than him who is less of a prospect. Now, Hernandez is no slouch; he is a good, solid prospect. But this discussion speaks more to Tillman’s prospect status/talent than Hernandez’s lack thereof.

While I’m excited about Hernandez, I’m concerned about 2011. Now, I will start by saying that perhaps Hernandez shows himself as a very capable starter in the future, and he solidifies a spot for 2011. That would be a great positive development for this organization. However, Tillman has more potential than Hernandez, and the O’s suffer in 2011 by Tillman not starting every 5th day for the whole 2011 season.

Also, everyone assumes that Tillman will be up quickly, but what if Hernandez pitches well, which obviously is the hope? I do not see a scenario where Millwood or Guthrie lose their spot until at least June or July.

Tillman only pitching in the majors 3 months or so this season would be a huge detriment to the team in 2011. I understand MacPhail wanted a veteran influence in Millwood, but at this point, I would rather Millwood not be on this team, even if it meant losing a few more games, which I do not think it would.

Tillman is going to go down to AAA, and likely dominate. Hopefully, he will be back up soon somehow, replacing one of the veterans, who are not going to be part of the long-term future.

Now that the decision is made, discussion shifts back to Hernandez. I have argued that Hernandez should start in the bullpen, and wait to get his chance in the rotation at some point down the line.

Well, now it’s go time for Hernandez. This is his shot. If he pitches well, he solidifies himself as a member of rotation for years to come. If he doesn’t, he likely is tried in the bullpen, in hopes that he can develop into an effective reliever in the coming years.

While I think Hernandez’s high pitch count will send him to the bullpen in the long run (where I think he can be a dominant set up man/closer) I am excited to see if he can increase his command, lower his pitch count, while maintaining the stuff that makes him so nasty against opposing hitters. If he can do that, he will be an asset in the rotation, and will make the young rotation even better when Tillman eventually joins him.

I guess ultimately, I am not upset that Hernandez is in the rotation; I’m upset that Tillman is not.

Should Guthrie be sent to the bullpen? While it would be better for the team in the long-run, it would effectively crash and burn any trade value that Guthrie had left, or could gain this season.

It is just hard for me to get past the fact that Millwood and Guthrie are making numerous starts in 2010, while Tillman, who again is likely the O’s 2nd best pitcher in 2011, is down in AAA, a place where he again, has nothing left to prove.