There really wasn’t much drama in Buck Showalter’s announcement yesterday that Chris Tillman would be the Opening Day starter for the Baltimore Orioles. In fact, the announcement was all but a formality. In reality, Tillman has been the de facto staff ace since the latter part of 2012. He barely missed winning 20 games last season due to a few hard-luck starts, and he’s looked great in spring training thus far. The Orioles of course traded for Tillman (who was a prospect at the time) as part of the Adam Jones/Erik Bedard trade in 2008. At the time, he was regarded as another piece of the supposed “cavalry” of young potential starters in the Orioles’ system.
Tillman has had his share of rocky moments with the Orioles, and he rode the Norfolk shuttle quite frequently in his first few seasons. However now, six years after coming to the O’s in one of the most lopsided trades in team history, he’ll be starting on Opening Day. It’s quite a rags to riches type of story in a sense, and it’s something that should give Orioles fans that have followed Tillman since the beginning a certain sense of pride. Showalter also announced that Ubaldo Jimenez would get the start on April 2nd against Boston, which of course is game two of the season. Beyond that point, the O’s haven’t committed to anyone else starting or even being in the rotation.
Yesterday was to have been a split-squad day for the O’s, however both the afternoon cap in Clearwater against Philadelphia, and the night-cap in Sarasota against Minnesota were rained out. While Showalter wants guys to get as many reps as they can at this point, this could well be a good thing because it leads the Orioles into the spring’s lone scheduled off day (which is today). And moving forward I think we’ll see things run a bit differently in that Showalter might begin to put his would-be starters into a rotation of sorts, and pitchers will begin to work on situational pitching as games unfold as opposed to having pitchers go out and simply work on their fastball command and so forth.
The final Grapefruit League game is next Thursday, March 27th at 7 PM vs. Tampa. At that point the Orioles will “break camp” during an off day on Friday, and they’ll head to Norfolk, VA for what amounts to an intersquad type of scrimmage on Saturday, March 29th at 3 PM vs. their triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides. They will then return to Baltimore to prepare for Opening day on Monday, March 31st. You can expect to see Birds Watcher’s official season preview at some point during that time frame, probably on Sunday, March 30th.