BALTIMORE — Struggling Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman will not make his next start.
When — or if — he makes another remains to be seen after he was placed on the 10-day disabled list Friday with what was officially called a lower back strain. Right-handed pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take his place on the 25-man roster and provide an extra arm for an overworked bullpen.
“He was in an MRI tube for quite a while today,” said manager Buck Showalter after Friday’s 9-4 win over Tampa Bay. “I know what some of the findings were, but the DL obviously was needed.”
After failing to make it out of the second inning in his second straight start on Thursday, Tillman saw his season ERA climb to an unseemly 10.46, leaving many to call for the Orioles to part ways with the veteran who hasn’t been effective since 2016. The 30-year-old has pitched to a nightmarish 8.42 ERA in 119 2/3 innings since the start of last season, making him easily the worst in baseball among pitchers completing at least 100 innings over that time frame.
After becoming just the eighth pitcher since 1929 to produce a season ERA of 7.50 or higher with at least 90 innings of work in 2017, Tillman remained on the free-agent market until late February when Baltimore re-signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract that included incentives. The Orioles had hoped Tillman would regain his pre-2017 form when he served as the de facto ace for the starting rotation and posted a solid 3.81 ERA from 2012-16, but he’s been even worse this season, allowing at least four runs in all but one of his seven starts.
Tillman’s problems began with a shoulder injury that landed him on the DL in August of 2016. He was able to return for the final few weeks of that season, but the issue returned that offseason, disrupting his spring preparations and putting him on the DL to begin 2017.
The DL move will understandably be met with great skepticism — especially after Tillman declared himself healthy in his post-game interview on Thursday — but the maneuver does allow the club to remove him from the starting rotation and potentially send him on an extended minor-league rehab assignment before determining the next step. The Orioles would remain on the hook for his 2018 salary if they were to release him.
Tillman becomes the seventh Orioles player currently on the DL, joining relief pitchers Zach Britton (Achilles tendon) and Darren O’Day, infielders Tim Beckham (core muscle surgery) and Luis Sardinas (back), outfielder Colby Rasmus (hip), and starting pitcher Gabriel Ynoa (shoulder). Second baseman Jonathan Schoop and outfielder Mark Trumbo recently returned from the DL.