On this Independence Day, Orioles fans can be grateful for freedom and the fact that the Orioles are again showing signs of life. In a 4-2 win over the Seattle Mariners, the Orioles bats seem to be coming alive in the final stretch before the All-Star Break as the Orioles scored four runs on seven hits. As it turned out though, it would not take four runs to secure a win. In fact, through much of the game, it looked as though the Orioles could have taken the win with just one run.
A lot of Orioles fans were concerned when it was announced Chris Tillman was the starting pitcher against the Mariners. Fans remembered his lackluster performances in previous seasons and begrudgingly dismissed the “Orioles prospect” that wasn’t. Out of the gate strong, Tillman flirted with the no-hitter going into the 4th when Michael Saunders hit a clean single to put the first hit for the Mariners on the board. Not letting the pressure of a base runner get to him (as it has in years passed), Tillman went scoreless going into the bottom of the 9th. Showalter, clearing showing confidence in the new and improved Chris Tillman, allowed him the chance at the complete game shutout. With no outs, Andino bobbled the ball out of his glove and allowed Saunders to reach first on an error. As if a beast was awoken, the Mariners tried to muster some momentum as Jaso launched a ball to the gap in right-center. Tillman went 8 1/3 innings giving up 2 hits on 2 runs (both unearned) while fanning seven. While the shutout was spoiled with Jim Johnson giving up 2 runs in his relief performance, Tillman pitched an impressive first game back to secure a W.
Are we sure this wasn’t a cyborg version of Tillman?
No, his mechanics and his pitching have simply evolved. When he first made his debut in 2009, Tillman was a raw, young pitcher. His rapid advancement through the farm development system did not allow Tillman the opportunity to perfect his game. When he threw the first inning today, Twitter was buzzing with people re-jumping on the #TeamTillman bandwagon. Anyone who had witnessed Tillman pitch in the past immediately noticed something different. Having good command of the ball throughout the game, Tillman was clocking anywhere from 94-97 mph fastballs even in the late innings. His curveball has also evolved into a dangerous pitch with his off-speed pitches clocking a good 20 mph under his fastball. For the most part, it seemed as though people were catching Tillman Mania again. Sure, there were some that showed concern due to the Mariners weak lineup but I interject this, “They seemed to be judging Jason Hammel quite well and he’s an All-Star nominated pitcher.” It seems quite simple – If Tillman pitches like he did today, a lot of lineups would have trouble hitting his stuff. Like a man on a mission, Chris Tillman knows that he may be on borrowed time and he is trying his best to prove that he is part of the future of the club.
What have we learned from all of this in developing young pitchers?
Tillman is one of the primary reasons why Dylan Bundy is being moved cautiously through the farm system. In something I have dubbed the “Tillman Theory,” it states “If you send a kid to pitch, you’ll get a kid pitching.” Essentially, the evolution from a high school arm to a college arm to a professional ballplayer arm is a process that cannot be rushed. Hopefully, fans can take Tillman as a lesson (as long as he performs and excels as he did today) and stop pressuring Bundy to be rapidly promoted. We all know he’s going to be good but you can’t rush perfection.