Chris Tillman entered Sunday’s start 6-1 with a 3.67 ERA in his last eight starts, posting five quality outings over that stretch, including Tuesday’s seven-inning start in which he held the White Sox to just one hit.
There was a noticeable dip in Tillman’s velocity today when he took to the mound against the New York Yankees, in a game that the Baltimore Orioles won by a score of 8-3 to take the series and are now just two games behind them for the division lead.
He looked fairly uncomfortable on the mound as he gave up a walk in each of the first two innings before giving up a two-run homerun to Chris Dickerson with two outs in the bottom of the second. After running over towards first base on a Nick Swisher grounder for the first out of the third inning it was apparent that something was wrong with Tillman – even more so than his drop in velocity.
Tillman threw 44 pitches, 24 for strikes, and was removed after just three innings of work due to what’s being described (for now) as right elbow stiffness. His fastball velocity was sitting around 89 mph, which is a good 4 mph lower than normal for him.
Depending on the severity of Tillman’s injury, or discomfort in his elbow, manager Buck Showalter could feel pressure to bring Jason Hammel back immediately after just one rehab start with Bowie. For what it’s worth, Hammel says that his arm and his knee both feel great and he’s not walking around with a brace or anything. The return of a healthy Hammel would be huge for the Orioles if Tillman has to miss any time, but it’s much better if the team gets Hammel back and Tillman doesn’t miss any time.
The truly unfortunate thing here is that Tillman was coming off of his best back-to-back starts of the season and was clearly in line to be a part of the Orioles starting rotation heading into 2013.This season marked the first time in his young career where he finally looked the part of a solid starting pitcher to match the expectations we all had, based on his potential as a prospect when first traded to the birds.
Randy Wolf replaced Tillman to start the fourth inning, making his Orioles debut, and pitched really well for 3.1 innings. He gave up just one run on three hits with a walk and a strikeout, I was very pleased with his debut considering he had a 5.62 ERA with the Milwaukee Brewers before they released him.
So much for the Orioles having too many starters for their rotation now.
Things really began to get out of hand for the Yankees pitching staff as the Orioles put four runs on the board in the top of the sixth inning, to take the lead 5-3, which was led by Mark Reynolds and his three-run homer (his second homerun of the day).
Then again in the eighth inning the Orioles were helped out when Derek Lowe walked Robert Andino with the bases already loaded, bringing in another run, and two more runs were tacked on by a Nick Markakis single.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided it would be a good idea to call for a new pitcher with every new batter while all this was going on – he used five relief pitchers in the inning. Somehow he thought that extending the eighth inning by a solid 30 minutes would magically solve all of their problems locating pitches in this game. Needless to say, the strategy backfired on him three times so perhaps he’s not so clever after all.
Plus, the twitter world was blowing up on Girardi for dragging the game out longer than he really needed to. Here are some of the Baltimore local beat writers thoughts on all of Girardi’s trips to the mound.
Welcome to “Fun With Pitching Changes.”Now here’s your host, Joe Girardi
— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) September 2, 2012
Joe Girardi illustrating the beauty of the expanded September roster.
— Peter Schmuck (@SchmuckStop) September 2, 2012
Raise your hand if Joe Girardi annoys you… (unless your driving)
— Brett Hollander (@BrettHollander) September 2, 2012
Manager Buck Showalter has mentioned the need for depth in case a pitcher is knocked out of a game with an injury. In this instance it was Tillman and we won’t know the severity of his injury until later today, or after the team arrives in Toronto.
I guess the silver lining in all of this is that the roster has expanded for this month and both Zach Britton and Jason Hammel are expected to rejoin the rotation within the next week. Both of which would provide a huge boost to the stability of the rotation and keeping the Orioles in position to win ball games.
Tillman’s turn comes up again on Friday against the Yankees, but Wei-Yin Chen is expected to pitch that night on extra rest with Hammel tentatively scheduled to start on Thursday. Tillman could start on Saturday, Joe Saunders could take the ball on regular rest, or Showalter could choose someone else.