After over a week of sitting in the bullpen and waiting for his chance to begin what he hopes is a six-week recovery of his lost season, Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman retired all four batters he faced in relief in Sunday's 9-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
"Chris was good," manager Buck Showalter said. "That was very encouraging, some things that [pitching coach Roger McDowell] and him were working that seemed to fit in today. It'll be interesting to see how he feels tomorrow.
“I'm not going to get into some of the things they've been working on, but he got down the hill. His angle was better. You expect his fastball to be crisper, but sometimes it goes the other way. So there's some curiosity there. I wanted to get him out there on a good note, but as proud a man as he is, it feels good for us to know that he feels like the arrow is pointed up. It creates some interesting options as we go forward."
Tillman struck out two of the four batters he faced, both on fastballs, and recorded a pair of flyouts on 20 pitches. His fastball topped out at 94 mph and got his only two swinging strikes, while he also threw his slider frequently. Tillman said the outing was "way different" from what he was used to, as he'd never appeared in a major league game in relief, but was encouraged as well.
"I feel like it was a step in the right direction for me," said Tillman, whose ERA improved from 8.10 to 7.94. "Other than that, didn’t really see much or do much. But was able to make a couple of pitches. ... Just seeing some of the stuff that I saw. Based on what we’ve been working on, it didn’t all come together. But it was a step in the right direction and one step closer to getting back.”
Because of the brevity of his appearance, Tillman doesn't have much of a reference point for what he and McDowell have been working on, but he was at least glad to get his first game since Aug. 3 out of the way.
"The unknown is probably the toughest part," Tillman said. "So getting one out of the way, definitely feel better about it.”