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Chris Tillman shakes off rust in first start in nine days

BaseballChris TillmanTommy HunterJosh StinsonEvan Longoria

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman wasn't his sharpest in his final spring tuneup before Opening Day, but he was able to limit the damage to work out of several jams against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park on Wednesday.

Tillman, who will be the team's Opening Day starter on Monday against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards, made his first start in nine days after missing his last scheduled appearance with the flu. He allowed 10 baserunners (nine hits and one walk) over 4 2/3 innings, but yielded just two runs.

“I would have liked to be better early on, but I was a bit rusty,” Tillman said. “Nine days [off]. But I was able to find it there in the middle and I was happy with that. I was able to make an adjustment and I was able to mix most of my pitches.”

The Rays scored the game's first run in the bottom of the first after Matt Joyce, who led off with a single and then moved to third on James Loney's one-out single, scored on Evan Longoria's sacrifice fly.

But Tillman received rally-killing double play balls in the second and third innings and stranded the bases loaded in the fourth inning.

“I think any time you're able to pitch out of the stretch with runners on base and kind of get a feel for it, it's good, especially when you make some pitches to get out of the inning,” Tillman said. “I was able to execute a little bit there. I was happy with it.”

Tillman was chased from the game in the fifth after Longoria's two-out RBI single, but Zach Britton struck out David DeJesus to strand runners at second and third.

“He was good,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Tillman, who threw 79 pitches. “He needed to get around 80 [pitches]. We needed to get that in. He’s ready to go. Tilly’s had a good spring. What I thought we’d see this spring we have. He’s prepared to start the season and pitch. I like where we are with him. He signed up for it coming in. Tonight got him back in good shape.”

In five spring outings, Tillman allowed 11 runs (9 earned) and 23 hits over 17 1/3 innings with 15 strikeouts and three walks.

“I would have liked to have made that other start, but other than that, I feel comfortable going into the season physically, mechanically and mentally,” he said.

Delmon Young was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, including a run-scoring double in the fourth inning that gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead. Atholton High product Steve Lombardozzi , who was also 2-for-3, followed with a single that drove in Young.

Young also made a sliding catch on Joyce’s looper down the line in shallow left field, preventing two runs from scoring.

The Rays tied the game in the seventh on former Oriole Wilson Betemit’s RBI single that got passed Adam Jones to score Spencer Edwards.

Britton and Tommy Hunter both worked back-to-back days for the first time this spring. Hunter threw a scoreless sixth.

After the Orioles took a 4-3 lead on Brett Wallace’s sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth, the Rays plated an unearned run off right-hander Josh Stinson in the bottom half of the inning.

Stinson, who struck out the first four batters he faced in his two-inning stint, loaded the bases with one out, but struck out Jose Paez and Ariel Soriano to end the game.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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BaseballChris TillmanTommy HunterJosh StinsonEvan Longoria
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