Baltimore Orioles: Moving Tillman to bullpen could be a good move
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman has had some troubles lately on the mound.
In a recent announcement, the Baltimore Orioles let the media know that Tillman will be moving from the starting rotation to the bullpen.
With six starting pitchers in the rotation and Tillman sitting with a league-high 8.10 ERA, this move could be good for the Orioles and for Tillman.
Something is clearly off with Tillman’s pitching. His career ERA is 4.37 and in his previous four seasons, he started in 30 or more games. He currently has 15 starts, but only 66.2 innings. In those four previous seasons, he has averaged nearly six innings per start. Now, he can barely eek out four.
New to the pen
As an MLB pitcher, Tillman has only been a starter. But, moving him to the bullpen could help. He isn’t the first Orioles pitcher to visit the bullpen for a little help. Ubaldo Jimenez did it earlier in the season. In late May and early June, Jimenez pitched in relief. Unfortunately, the team lost the four games in which he pitched relief and he did not do well in his 13.2 innings. Jimenez gave up eight earned runs and earned an ERA Of 5.27. He hasn’t done much better since returning to the rotation.
Despite his troubles, Buck Showalter has had nothing but kind words about the veteran pitcher. In an article by Jon Meoli with The Baltimore Sun, Showalter said:
"“Chris is the ultimate ‘What’s best for the team’ guy. He wears it, and it bothers him.”"
Troubles with his shoulder?
Tillman’s problem could still be related to his shoulder. He did not make any starts until May 7. He won his first game, but that’s it for the season. Since June 10, his ERA has been above seven. His WHIP is 2.040. These are not good numbers for a starting pitcher in the MLB.
How the pen can revive a career
Sometimes a trip to the bullpen can be a career changing move for a pitcher. The Detroit Tigers, Shane Greene, is one pitcher who benefitted from the move. He was acquired by the Tigers in a strange trade in 2014 and pitched as a starter in 2015 with an ERA of 6.88. In 2016, he started the season in the rotation and it didn’t go well. So he was moved to the bullpen. Since then, he has adjusted to the job of a relief pitcher and has steadily grown into the job. When the Tigers traded Justin Wilson (their closing pitcher) to the Chicago Cubs, Greene was given the job of closer as of August 1. He is currently having his best season yet, with an ERA of 2.54. And, he has three saves under his belt.
Learning the routine
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Even though the Orioles already have one of the best bullpens in the Major Leagues, a pitcher like Tillman could be a valuable addition. He is still good at inducing ground balls, which the O’s defense can easily handle (remember the triple play against the Tigers?). And, he still has several pitches that can stymy batters. His biggest problem has been that his fastball is hittable. But, as a reliever, he doesn’t have to rely on that pitch all of the time. By pitching an inning or two, he can spend more time mixing up his pitches. This could be a good thing for Tillman and the Orioles.
As a new member of the bullpen, Tillman will have to figure out the way it works. Obviously, he will need to be able to pitch without the same amount of warm-up time. Most likely, Showalter – the master of the bullpen – will only use him in low leverage situations. However, since the bullpen is already stocked with efficient right-handed pitchers, Tillman will need to perform when called upon. Otherwise, he could find himself spending some time with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides.
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Hopefully, Tillman and the pitching coaches will get his issues figured out so he can return to his typical ways. He has been a solid pitcher in his nine seasons with the Orioles. As a loyal team player, it is clear that the O’s want nothing but the best for him.