Orioles notes: Tillman to make first start since June 30 tonight vs. Rangers

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Try as he might to build up some positivity ahead of Chris Tillman’s first start, manager Buck Showalter said he’s “not real sure” what to expect in the veteran right-hander’s first start since June 30 when he takes the mound Monday night.

“He’s had, really, three workdays, counting the one he had in Bowie,” Showalter said. “He’s certainly rested. But I’m hoping that he takes his new fatherhood to another level.”

Tillman was scheduled to start July 5 in Milwaukee but stayed back in Baltimore for the birth of his first child. He took a bullpen session later that week in Bowie before rejoining the team in Minnesota, but didn’t get into a game.

Showalter said earlier in the weekend that the team thought with all Tillman had gone through that last week before the All-Star break, keeping him out until Monday was the best play.

Before that, Tillman found some positives in his June 30 start against the Tampa Bay Rays, allowing two runs on seven hits in five innings while taking a no-decision. It’s been a difficult free-agent season for Tillman, though, as he’s carrying a 7.90 ERA in 11 starts after missing the first month of the season with a shoulder injury that has hampered him since last August.

“I was kidding him the other day,” Showalter said. “I know some of you all in here have had that moment the first time you looked in a crib and said: ‘Oh, my gosh, I have to find something I’m pretty good at that they’ll actually pay me for, because there’s somebody down this hallway who’s counting on me to be pretty good.’ I don’t know. I think Chris should be able to pay the bills.

“That’s kind of getting a little deep with it, but I’m anxious to watch him pitch. We’ll see if he’s going to have the type of last two-fifths of the season that he’s capable of. So, we thought it would benefit him with all the things that went on in his life to have two or three workdays and get ready to go.”

Britton bouncing back

Zach Britton worked around a leadoff single and a two-out walk for a scoreless eighth inning Sunday, his third straight scoreless outing as he works his way back from a left forearm strain.

As questions roil about his and some of the other stars’ futures with the club, Britton is happy about where he is at this early stage of his comeback.

“If you look at the outs, a lot of weak ground balls today,” Britton said. “I made a bad pitch to [center fielder Ian] Happ, a breaking ball that he hit. That’s not something I would do in a save situation. When you’re not in position to probably win the game, you can kind of work on some pitches. Like I said, I’ve been feeling good. Back into form the more games I get.”

Britton said he doesn't know how long he’ll continue pitching every other day just to get work in.

“I would assume if we got some winnable games, I’ll throw later and kind of hang around for a save situation,” Britton said.

Castro still impressing

Showalter said there’s no telling what right-hander Miguel Castro’s role will be going forward, but at age 22 on his third major league team already, there’s hope he’s found a good home in Baltimore.

They’re trying to keep him stretched out for long relief, but starting could be in his long-term future.

“This is a young man,” Showalter said. “There are a lot of things I like about him. He’s engaged. He’s a student of the game. You first meet him and everything and you see this guy that may give you some, I don’t know, prior prejudices of what you think he might be about and it’s just the opposite. He watches every pitch. He’s competitive. He’s not scared; he likes to compete. And he brings a lot of intangibles to play up here, so where that shakes out is going to be interesting to watch. And he’s got a third pitch.”

Around the horn

Despite the signing deadline being last week, the Orioles announced that 26th-round draft pick Cameron Blankenship, a left-hander from California Irvine, was signed Sunday. … Shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is out with a fractured wrist and still several weeks from a return, has fully recovered from a fractured rib, Showalter said. … Showalter said he’s been impressed with Triple-A Norfolk reliever Matt Wotherspoon, who was acquired for international bonus slots from the New York Yankees.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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