Chris Tillman already had plans for the next four days. While four of his teammates traveled to New York for the All-Star Game, the Orioles right-hander was going down to North Carolina for a break from baseball.
But at 1:08 p.m. Sunday, manager Buck Showalter called Tillman into his office and said, “Congrats.” About 10 minutes later, he was standing next to four of his teammates on the infield at Camden Yards holding a blue All-Star Game jersey with his No. 30 on the back.
Tillman was added to the American League All-Star Game roster, replacing Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, who started Sunday’s game for Detroit and is thus ineligible to pitch in the game. It will be the first appearance in the Midsummer Classic for Tillman, 25.
“I appreciate it,” Tillman said after the Orioles’ 7-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. “It’s an honor to get to go to something like this, and it’s kind of a surprise. It’s special for the city and kind of special for me to get to go with all my teammates.”
During a ceremony before Sunday’s game against Toronto, the other four Orioles All-Stars — first baseman Chris Davis, center fielder Adam Jones, shortstop J.J. Hardy and third baseman Manny Machado — were introduced and presented with All-Star Game jerseys. After that, it was announced that Tillman will be joining them, and he was given a jersey.
It’s the first time since 1997 the Orioles have had five players on the All-Star Game roster. They had six that year, but pitcher Jimmy Key didn’t attend because he got married over the break. Tillman is the first Orioles starting pitcher to make the game since right-hander Mike Mussina in 1999.
Tillman (11-3) leads the Orioles will 11 wins and has pitched to a 3.95 ERA over 19 starts this season in 111 2/3 innings. He has won eight of his past nine decisions and recorded six quality starts in his past eight outings.
Most recently, Tillman allowed three runs on eight hits over six innings in the Orioles’ 8-5 win over Toronto on Friday. His marquee outing came May 2 against the Los Angeles Angels when the Anaheim, Calif., native shut out a potent Angels lineup for eight innings, allowing just three hits.
Tillman said he heard Saturday that he could be added to the roster, but he wasn’t sure it would happen. Showalter had to wait until 1:08 — the scheduled first pitch of the Tigers’ matchup with the Texas Rangers — before he could tell Tillman, and he delivered the news at the exact moment.
“It’s a really special moment for Chris Tillman and his family, OK?” Showalter said. “And who knows what it means. He’s not a secret, I can tell you that, around the league. A lot of people were on him. He wasn’t drafted here. He got here in a trade. Somebody else is real smart. Not me, but somebody was smart getting him here. We’re lucky to have him. He’s got an interesting future.”
Tillman has built on a breakout 2012 campaign through the first half of this season. After beginning the season in the minors, Tillman came up shortly before the All-Star break and made 15 starts, going 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA as the Orioles made the playoffs.
Before that, though, Tillman’s tenure with the Orioles was marred by uneven performances. A key piece of the Erik Bedard trade in 2008, Tillman went 7-15 with an ERA of more than 5.00 in his first three years with the Orioles. Now he has the third-most wins in the major leagues.
“It was kind of a roller coaster ride earlier in my career, going up and down and being inconsistent, that whole deal,” Tillman said. “But we’re happy now. We’re happy where we’re at.”
Davis, Jones and Hardy will all start in Tuesday's game after being elected by the fans. Machado was voted onto the team by the players.
“It’s huge man,” Davis said. “We were all just as excited as [Tillman] was when he found out today. The guy’s worked hard all year. He’s been a guy we really depend on and a guy who’s really been a horse for us, so I’m really excited for him to get the nod. It shows that people are paying attention.”