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We Haven't Seen The Last Of Chris Tillman

A Trip To The DL Gives The Orioles Time To Decide His Future

May 12, 2018 - 4:05 pm

By Alex Woodward

Let’s face it; Chris Tillman has been a shell of himself ever since the start of the 2017 season. He started that year with concerns about a shoulder injury he was nursing during the offseason. He picked up the win in his season debut, tossing 5 scoreless innings with 4 strikeouts and no walks.

Following that start, he began a stretch that leaked into this season, where he couldn’t pick up a win in 22 consecutive starts and he also carried an 8.54 ERA in that span.

Tillman was the ace of the staff and arguably one of the most reliable pitchers the Orioles had in the rotation from 2012-2016. After that abysmal 2017 season, the Orioles ended up bringing Tillman back on a 1 year, $3 million “prove it” deal. So far, all Tillman has proven is that he doesn’t belong in a Major League rotation.

Tillman snapped that 22 game winless streak on April 27th where he tossed 7 scoreless innings allowing just 1 hit against the Tigers in a start that gave us hope that the old “Tilly” was back. Unfortunately, he reverted back to the more recent version of Tillman, as he followed that start up with back to back starts of allowing 5 or more earned runs without getting out of the 2nd inning.

Oriole fans have been justifiably frustrated with Tillman as he continues to disappoint on the mound.  After his most recent disappointment, fans were speculating that Tillman would get designated for assignment, sent to the minors (with his permission) or sent to the bullpen. We were all wrong on Friday as the Orioles announced that Tillman was heading for the DL with a strained muscle in his back.

Before that announcement, there had been no discussions about Tillman and a back injury. His DL assignment seems eerily similar to when Ubaldo Jimenez was struggling in 2014 and he was sent to the DL with an ankle injury after allegedly stepping in a pothole in the parking lot. To me, these DL moves are more or less the Orioles finding ways to hide struggling pitchers from their rotation and hoping that they can bounce back after their DL stint.

It feels like the Orioles are reluctant to admit they were wrong on a signing. They stuck with Ubaldo through the entirety of his 4 year, $50 million deal; even though more times than not he looked lost at the mound. Tillman looks just as lost on the mound and his contract is far less costly to the Oriole budget but for some reason, it seems like the Orioles are still standing by their former ace.

Buck has repeatedly mentioned Chris’ track record as a starter but at some point reality has to set in and you can’t afford to send this guy to the mound every 5th day. I think Buck realizes this but I don’t think the organization is ready to admit they were wrong on another signing; so a trip to the DL gives them more time to figure out what they will do.

I’m guessing this isn’t the last we see of Chris Tillman. He will most likely be brought back as a member of the bullpen and utilized only in low-leverage situations. They did it with Ubaldo before easing him back into the rotation and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did the same with Tillman.

Baltimore is clinging to the hope he can work his way back to his old form but I believe that ship has already sailed.

Tillman’s place on the roster is far from safe but if you look at recent events, it’s more likely the Orioles stay loyal to their former ace and will give him more chances to live up to his 1 year deal

Although we should keep in mind: Buck Showalter’s recent comments make it sound like we will have a better idea of Tillman’s future sooner rather than later; “First we’ve got to manage the back, making sure that’s something we can resolve before there’s a plan put in place,” Showalter said. “I think we should probably have something by the end of this homestand, what direction that’s going to go.”

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