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Looking into Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman's troubles

It's an obvious question. And there really isn’t an obvious answer.

What’s wrong with Chris Tillman?

“I don’t know,” said shortstop J.J. Hardy, when asked about the Orioles’ top starter. “I don’t think he is hitting his spots as well. People are getting some cheap hits, and they just keep rolling. I think everyone knows Tillman’s going to be all right, but he’s going through a little funk right now.”

Tillman said his problems are mechanical. He said he’s not hitting his spots with his fastball or his breaking stuff, and if you don’t have command, it’s hard to get away with mistakes in the majors.

“Just inconsistent. I always go back to it, but I think when you are consistent in your delivery, on the mound, you are able to get on a roll,” Tillman said. “And I’m not able to carry it over. Just comes down to my mechanics, my delivery. It’s close. But you got to be able to execute.”

After throwing a shutout in Kansas City on May 16, Tillman has allowed 12 earned runs in his past two games (just 6 2/3 innings pitched, thanks to a one-inning disaster in Pittsburgh last week). His ERA has jumped from 3.34 to 4.69 in those two games -- which, runs-wise, have been his worst back-to-back outings of his career.

His struggles go beyond those two games, though. He hasn’t thrown more than six innings in seven of his past eight starts -- the shutout being the only exception. In that span, only once other than the shutout did he get through six.

Tillman's control has been spotty -- he walked four Monday, and has now walked 13 in his last 20 2/3 innings (and 12 in 11 2/3 innings if you throw out the shutout).

And his velocity is down a bit -- his average four-seam fastball is 90.4 mph this season, compared to 91.6 last year and 92.2 in 2012, according to

Although he dealt with groin soreness earlier this month, Tillman said he’s healthy.

“He’s actually getting a little irritated at people asking him that,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “And a lot of people I’ve known in the past would jump at that excuse.”

Showalter said he has his own ideas why Tillman may be struggling, but he’s not going to make them public. He said he has faith in pitching coach Dave Wallace and Tillman that things will get worked out.

“It’s something he and we are going to have to get corrected, or it’s going to be a problem,” Showalter said. “It’s frustrating because we see what he’s capable of.”

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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