This offseason, the Orioles put an emphasis on transforming the bullpen. They acquired Luis Ayala, Tsuyoshi Wada, Matt Lindstrom and Darren O’Day. Those guys were brought in to complement a core of Alfredo Simon, Kevin Gregg and Jim Johnson.
One guy that kind of went into Spring Training in no-mans land was Chris Tillman. Tillman, a starter throughout his entire career, was competing for the 5th spot. However with the acquisitions made in the offseason and the returning starters it was obvious to Tillman that if he were to make the team out of Spring Training, he would have to be in the pen.
Though he seemed like a long shot to make the team at the beginning, Tillman has pitched incredibly strong. The Reason: He changed his Jersey number form 22 to 30.
But seriously, Tillman’s composure has strengthened. It was obvious in 2010 and 2011 that Tillman got pretty rattled when men would get on base. He had the physical tools to become a solid Major League pitcher, but mentally has was not there.
Another positive aspect of Tillman’s game is his fastball. As a prospect Tillman had a 95 mph fastball but last year that decreased to 89 and 90 mph. This spring the velocity is back up around 92 and 93 mph. That is key for him because the his changeup has become an above average pitch that he uses to complement his fastball and 12 to 6 curveball.
Tillman’s confidence and game is clearly on this rise. This spring he has pitched in twelve and a third innings and has an ERA of 2.92. His strikeout to walk ratio is 2:1. However, Tillman still needs to work on limiting his pitches. Which is another reason why the O’s may see him as a reliever rather then a starter.
Going into the season it seems as though Chris Tillman will be the Orioles primary long man. After surprising moves like sending Brad Bergesen, a solid contender to be a member of the bullpen, and designating the newly signed Dana Eveland for assignment, Tillman remains as the favorite to be the O’s Longman.
The O’s sent Bergesen down to accumulate more innings in a starting role. Eveland was cut in order to sign infielder Zelous Wheeler from Milwaukee. Also, Jason Berken is going to start the year in the minor leagues. Vying for the final spots in the bullpen are Tillman, Pedro Strop, Troy Patton and Zach Phillips. Tillman should emerge from that group and look show the entire organization why he was such a highly touted prospect.
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