Tag Archive | "Chris Tillman"

Chris Tillman Flirts with a One-Hit Shutout but Settles for a Win

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Chris Tillman Flirts with a One-Hit Shutout but Settles for a Win

Posted on 04 July 2012 by hopebirchfield

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.

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matusz

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Matusz falters, Johnson recalled – Who do the Orioles call up next?

Posted on 02 July 2012 by hopebirchfield

After the abysmal performance of starter Brian Matusz in Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Indians, he was optioned to Norfolk immediately following the game. In only four innings, Matusz gave up 7 hits on 5 runs (4 earned) and walked four. With the loss, Brian Matusz was awarded his tenth loss of season and fifth loss in a row. It was announced that Steve Johnson would be recalled from Norfolk to join the Orioles bullpen on the road in Seattle. In his last four outings cumulatively totaling 12.1 innings, Johnson has given up only five hits on no runs and has fanned 20. The Orioles are obviously looking to add a long-lasting reliever with the hesitant performances of the starting rotation as of late. Within the next week however, the Orioles will likely need to recall a starting pitcher. Who are the best two options to call up from the Norfolk Tides? Zach Britton and Chris Tillman (Read on before you send hate mail).

Zach “Sinker” Britton

Zach was the starting pitcher on Sunday evening as the Tides looked to best the Syracuse Chiefs. Watching him come out of the gate strong retiring the side in the first (including striking out two), you can not help but wonder whether Britton had heard of the upcoming rotation spot. In five innings, Britton yielded one earned run and struck out seven. There were times when his control and command were not at its best and times when he visibly struggled. All in all, it was not his best performance but it certainly was not his worst performance either. He exited the game losing so even though the Tides won, he did not register a decision.

In the last four games, Britton’s ERA is 4.80 and he has struck out 13 in 21 innings of work. Britton primarily relies on his sinker with velocities in the low to mid 90s, much to the chagrin of the opposing offense. His arsenal also includes an above-average slider and a below-average (but improved) changeup. Typically, Britton throws his sinker as he often has trouble commanding his changeup. With a sinker with such high velocity, when Britton is on his game, he is almost un-hittable. While pitching with the Baltimore Orioles last year; he split the season with eleven wins and eleven losses. His final ERA was 4.61 on the year and he recorded 97 strikeouts. Due to an impingement of his left shoulder, Britton was added to the disabled list in March and has been rehabbing with the Norfolk Tides since June 6th.

It is obvious that eventually Zach Britton will go back to the Baltimore Orioles but when is the more pertinent question. While he still is throwing well, his ERA is similar to the one that yielded a split 11-11 decision with the Orioles. In the most recent game against the Chiefs, Britton commanded the ball extremely well but he is still finding his rhythm. A few more starts at the Norfolk Tides could make him an even better addition for when down the stretch.

Why not Chris Tillman?

Before the collective sighs from Orioles fans who remember his 5.60 ERA, 7-15 record in the 2009 through 2011 season, let me just say that in his last four outings (21-plus innings), he recorded 27 strikeouts. No, that’s not a typo – He has fanned 27 people in 21 innings. Chris Tillman is a different player this year. Farm teams were created to develop player mechanics and before you discount him just because he’s Chris Tillman, his mechanics have greatly improved and made him an elite competitor.

In his recent performances, Tillman has won his last four decisions with a 2.57 ERA, including one shutout performance in Toledo. His fastball has picked up some stream and reaches 94-95 mph pretty consistently. He also has an above-average curveball and an average cutter. In the past, Orioles fans have seen Tillman struggle with commanding the ball, often flustered with runners on base and seeming to quickly unravel with base runners. This year, however, the Chris Tillman that takes the mound is more disciplined with better control. Often Tillman is overlooked because of his performances at the big club but he clearly lives by the mantra – “Practice makes perfect.” Surely his command and control have improved, as can be seen with his ERA dropping and shutout appearances. Like most pitchers, there are times when he still struggles, but unfortunately that can be said about the majority of pitchers currently on the Orioles. There is a reason why farm teams exist and Tillman may be the poster child for their success in developing mechanics of young players. At 24, Tillman may be one of the future pitchers in this organization if he continues to pitch as he has been in his recent outings. If the Orioles actually take the proverbial leap of faith and recall him, Tillman may surprise a lot of people. The numbers in his recent three seasons with the Orioles are not a good indication of his skill level or his recent development. Perhaps this is the case when it’s the 4th time that is a charm.

Final Thoughts

Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen cannot be the only reliable pitchers in the starting rotation. With the recent departure of Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz, Showalter has made it clear that sub par performances will only be tolerated for so long. Personally, I would like to see both Britton and Tillman at the big league level later this season. They both are dominating pitchers who can throw the ball well with good movement. Who knows? With Tillman being a righty and Britton being a lefty, perhaps they can create a duo that we can deem “Hammel and Chen, Version 2.0.”

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Orioles shut down Japanese pitcher Wada

Posted on 21 April 2012 by Luke Jones

With starting pitcher Brian Matusz struggling in his first three starts of 2012, it looked like the Orioles might eventually turn to Japanese newcomer Tsuyoshi Wada in the near future, but that will no longer be the case.

The club announced Saturday it has shut down Wada’s rehab assignment, and the left-handed pitcher will return to Baltimore to see team doctors. Wada has been on the 15-day disabled list with an elbow injury and reportedly was dealing with neck spasms during a disastrous rehab start for Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday. Wada gave up six earned runs and walked four in just 2 2/3 innings in his only start for the Tides.

Wada was considered the primary option to potentially replace Matusz at the major league level, but there is no timetable for the injured pitcher to resume throwing. Starters Brad Bergesen (8.49 earned run average in 11 2/3 innings) and Chris Tillman (4.73 ERA in 13 1/3 innings) haven’t exactly excelled in their first three starts in the starting rotation for the Tides, meaning manager Buck Showalter might be more inclined to turn to journeyman Dana Eveland (2.41 ERA in 18 2/3 innings) or Jason Berken (0.60 ERA in three starts covering 15 innings) if the Orioles decide to demote Matusz in the near future.

Even if the Orioles weren’t planning to replace Matusz with Wada in the starting rotation, the 31-year-old rookie was considered the most logical choice for a long-relief role in the bullpen, which currently lacks a pitcher who can throw multiple innings at a time.

 

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Orioles option RHP Tillman to Triple-A Norfolk, place Simon on waivers

Posted on 31 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With the start of the season less than a week away, the Orioles moved closer to shaping their pitching staff with a pair of moves over the last 24 hours.

Right-handed pitcher Chris Tillman has been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk where he will presumably be a member of the Tides’ starting rotation. Showing improved velocity, the 23-year-old Tillman posted a 2.92 earned run average in 12 1/3 innings over five outings this spring.

The Orioles likely view Triple A as a better fit for Tillman as he tries to build on a successful spring and extends himself as a starter. Though he was still a dark-horse candidate for the fifth starter job, Tillman likely would have found himself as a long reliever only pitching a few innings a week.

The club also reportedly placed right-handed pitcher Alfredo Simon on outright waivers despite his ability to pitch as either a starter or a reliever. Battling a groin injury during sprain training, Simon was lit up for six runs in two innings of relief work on Wednesday.

Simon’s impending removal from the 40-man roster will clear a spot for one of two non-roster invitees likely to make the 25-man roster heading north. First baseman Nick Johnson is expected to be part of the Orioles’ bench while catcher Ronny Paulino will be Matt Wieters’ backup with Taylor Teagarden heading to the 15-day disabled list.

 

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Here’s How I’d Put Together Orioles Roster At This Point

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Here’s How I’d Put Together Orioles Roster At This Point

Posted on 27 March 2012 by Glenn Clark

They’re not going to be good, but they’re going to play games anyway. Tuesday on “The Reality Check”, I offered my best educated guess on how to put together the Baltimore Orioles’ 25 man Opening Day roster.

A lot of this appears to be set in stone already. As a reminder, I’m not in Sarasota covering Spring Training. I’m in Towson looking out the window at the deer here at 1550 Hart Rd.

I’m not complaining by the way.

OUTFIELDERS (4):

Nolan Reimold
Adam Jones
Nick Markakis
Endy Chavez

INFIELDERS/DESIGNATED HITTER (7):
Mark Reynolds
JJ Hardy
Robert Andino
Ryan Flaherty
Chris Davis
Wilson Betemit
Nick Johnson

CATCHERS (2):
Matt Wieters

Ronny Paulino

STARTING ROTATION-IN ORDER (5):
Jake Arrieta
Jason Hammel
Wei-Yin Chen

Tommy Hunter
Dana Eveland

BULLPEN (7):
Kevin Gregg
Matt Lindstrom

Luis Ayala
Tsuyoshi Wada
Jim Johnson
Pedro Strop
Troy Patton

(DISABLED LIST: P Zach Britton, 2B Brian Roberts, P Darren O’Day & P Alfredo Simon)

ROSTER NOTES: The O’s will be able to add Johnson and Paulino to the roster by sampling moving OF Jai Miller and C Taylor Teagarden off the roster. I’m guessing the team will now choose to leave Brian Matusz in Norfolk to protect a rotation spot for Britton when he’s healthy. There are other roster options (including leaving Wada on the DL) that could open up a spot for a Chris Tillman, O’Day or Simon.

-G

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Roberts, Britton to begin year on 15-day DL; Orioles make more spring cuts

Posted on 26 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than two weeks away, manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles continue to sort out which 25 players they’ll be taking north to open the season against the Minnesota Twins on April 6.

Second baseman Brian Roberts (concussion symptoms) and left-handed pitcher Zach Britton (left shoulder impingement) will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list. The veteran infielder continues to progress from the concussion symptoms he’s dealt with for the better part of 18 months but is not ready to resume his role as the Baltimore second baseman. Britton is currently receiving platelet rich plasma therapy in hopes of rebuilding strength in his pitching shoulder and will likely be out until at least May.

The decision to place Roberts on the 15-day disabled list means he will remain on the 40-man roster. Some speculated Roberts would be placed on the 60-day list, but it appears he will travel with the club to Baltimore to get re-acclimated to a major league environment before potentially going on a minor league rehab assignment.

The Orioles trimmed their spring roster to 35 on Monday by optioning infielder Matt Antonelli and pitchers Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken to Triple-A Norfolk. They also reassigned pitchers Dontrelle Willis and Armando Gallaraga, catcher John Hester, infielder Steve Tolleson, and outfielder Scott Beerer to minor league camp.

The demotions of Antonelli and Tolleson make it apparent that Showalter will keep Rule 5 selection Ryan Flaherty as his utility infielder since Robert Andino will be the starting second baseman. The 25-year-old Flaherty is hitting .279 in 43 spring at-bats with one home run and eight runs batted in.

As for the starting rotation, it appears Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, and Tommy Hunter have locked up four of the five spots. Lefty Brian Matusz looks to be the favorite for the fifth spot, but Tsuyoshi Wada, Dana Eveland, and Chris Tillman remain in the mix over the final week and a half of spring training.

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Tillman Shaky But Orioles Top Twins

Posted on 16 March 2012 by WNST Staff

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I Answer Your Questions About O’s Rotation, Ravens Free Agency, Terrell Stoglin, More

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I Answer Your Questions About O’s Rotation, Ravens Free Agency, Terrell Stoglin, More

Posted on 13 March 2012 by Glenn Clark

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Excitement over Bundy painful reminder of Orioles’ underwhelming “cavalry”

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Excitement over Bundy painful reminder of Orioles’ underwhelming “cavalry”

Posted on 29 February 2012 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles beginning preparations in Sarasota ahead of their 20th anniversary at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, much of the buzz in camp has surrounded a young pitcher born seven months after the baseball cathedral first opened in downtown Baltimore.

Yes, let that marinate for a moment or two.

After being selected as the fourth overall pick of last June’s amateur draft, 19-year-old Dylan Bundy has drawn rave reviews from observers and teammates alike while displaying a plus-fastball in the mid to upper 90s and three other pitches that already have hitters shaking their heads during live batting practice, according to reports from Florida. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound right-hander will presumably begin his minor league career at Single-A Delmarva this season, but his track to the big leagues has the potential to be much shorter than the typical pitcher fresh out of high school.

“That kid Bundy is gonna be special….if he wants to,” center fielder Adam Jones said on his official Twitter account on Monday.

Never one to mince words, Jones tells it like he sees it.

Of course, before anyone proclaims him the future ace of the staff, Bundy has yet to throw a professional pitch — even if he appears to have more upside than any Baltimore pitching prospect in recent memory. Given their failed history in cultivating young hurlers over the years, the Orioles would be well served to protect their best pitching prospect in bubble wrap after the gushing about his potential since last June.

But the hype surrounding Bundy isn’t all that different than the anticipation for the famed “cavalry” of a couple years ago when then-manager Dave Trembley and many others were touting the potential of Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman, and several others and how it would lead the Orioles from the abyss of losing season after losing season. It gave fans hope at the time, but the results have been mixed at best and generally regarded as disappointing when looking back at all the excitement.

Matusz? A disastrous 2011 season that included a 1-9 record and a 10.69 earned run average has made nearly everyone question the former first-round pick’s health, dedication to the game, and mental toughness.

Arrieta? He had been the steadiest of the original “Big Three” before elbow surgery cut his 2011 campaign short, but the tough right-hander still doesn’t show enough command to project as much better than a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Tillman? The tall righty has never shown more than brief flashes of the ability the Orioles saw in him when acquiring him as part of the return for the Erik Bedard trade over four years ago. His future appears to be in the bullpen.

The most promising arrival of the crop, left-hander Zach Britton shows great upside after a solid rookie season, but a shoulder strain has caused fans to take pause in the early stages of spring training.

After a disappointing offseason void of any significant moves and the trade of veteran mainstay Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies, the continued development of the young pitching will be even more critical in not only determining how the Orioles fare in 2012 but will also go a long way in deciding where the organization goes from here. With the current core of position players not getting any younger, the failure of Matusz, Britton, and Arrieta to take significant steps forward could entice executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette to begin selling off key pieces such as Jones and right fielder Nick Markakis to essentially begin the rebuilding process again.

And for a fan base devoid of a winning product since 1997, that’s a sobering proposition.

For Matusz (52 career starts) and Arrieta (40 career starts), the time is now to begin showing significant signs of maturity to prove the organization can pencil each into the rotation every fifth day without having to think twice. Britton needs to build upon his 4.61 ERA in 2011 and show why many scouts project him as a potential No. 2 starter in a major league rotation. If the trio makes major strides in 2012, it might be enough to push ownership to spend more aggressively at the big-league level while continuing to build the farm system behind the scenes next offseason.

Of course, manager Buck Showalter has issued the challenge for all starting candidates to be ready to perform in spring training as he tries to piece together a starting rotation. The Orioles skipper has said the days of young pitchers holding a spot by default are over, which means some combination of Matusz, Arrieta, and Britton could wind up at Triple-A Norfolk to begin the season while short-term options such as Jason Hammel and Dana Eveland fill rotation spots. Frankly, it’s an even more deflating scenario than the continued struggles of the young pitchers at the big-league level.

If those goals don’t come to fruition, the Orioles may be back to square one — admittedly, not a very long fall — as fans will hopelessly look ahead to the likes of Bundy and top infield prospects Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop to lead the club back to respectability.

It will be no different than two years ago.

Or six years ago.

Or nine years ago.

Waiting on exciting potential, but wondering if it will ever become reality.

It’s a mantra Orioles fans are all too familiar with.

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The End of the Andy MacPhail Era- The View from the Balcony

Posted on 16 October 2011 by Erich Hawbaker

Well, Andy is officially out as the Orioles General Manager. And by most accounts, he hasn’t left the team in any better shape than he found it. There’s plenty of talk now about the possibility of Buck Showalter being promoted to the front office, but we’ll see. I don’t expect anything will happen fast.

I, for one, suspected for some time that MacPhail would be bowing out as soon as he had the chance. Most of us know that he’s gunning for Bud Selig’s job. And, it became rather apparent to me that he reached the same conclusion so many of us have: Peter Angelos has absolutely no interest in fielding a winning team, and there is a 99.9% chance that the Orioles will not see the playoffs again or possibly even a .500 season as long as he still owns them.

Andy’s ‘grow the arms and buy the bats’ plan may have looked good on paper, but turned out to be a total bust. His “cavalry” of young pitchers (Matusz, Britton, Arietta, Tillman, Patton) fared about as well this season as General Custer’s cavalry did at the Battle of Little Bighorn. I will concede that sometimes prospects simply don’t pan out, and that is not entirely Andy’s fault.

But as far as buying the bats goes, he deserves every vile criticism we can throw at him and more. In 4 years time, what legitimate bats were bought? As far as free agents went, Andy’s tenure was marked by making joke offers to the likes of Adam Dunn and Mark Teixeira, and then settling for past-their-prime B-listers like Derrick Lee and Vlad Guerrero (and don’t hold your breath about Prince Fielder coming to Baltimore either). Of course, there’s only so much you can do when you have Peter Angelos keeping you on such a tight leash, but Andy doesn’t get a pass here. The Orioles haven’t been serious about signing free agents in over a decade, and MacPhail did nothing to reverse that trend.

For awhile now, I’ve been thinking about how best to summarize the time Andy MacPhail spent in Baltimore, and I happened to stumble across the perfect illustration on Youtube. This will be a first for me, using visual aids in my columns. Now, when you go to the link below and watch the clip from the old classic Muppet Show, I want you to do something. Imagine that Milton Berle is Andy MacPhail, and that Statler and Waldorf (the two old men in the balcony) represent we, the disgruntled Orioles fans. And instead of talking about being funny, suppose the discussion centers around the ability to build a winning baseball team (you’ll have to copy and paste the address below into your browser, because for some reason WordPress won’t let me put a real link in here). Enjoy!

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGfx3QAV64M&feature=related

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