Chris Tillman was finally back in his element after waiting several days for his incentive-laden one-year contract to move slowly through the approval process.
“It is a relief,” he said as he prepared to take the field Wednesday morning. “I’ve been stuck inside looking out the windows for the last three days, so it feels good to finally be able to join the team and get out and get my feet under me.”
Everything feels good right now. The familiar environment. The close circle of friends. Most importantly, his right shoulder that failed him last winter and threw his entire 2017 season out whack.
Now he’s back in his usual rhythm, and said it’s no mystery why he feels so much better this spring than he did when he arrived at spring training last February.
“I think because I’ve had a normal offseason,” he said. “I had my normal offseason that I’ve had over the last couple of years. Last year wasn’t that case and we were able to get in the weight room early, to throw early and it’s for the good to be able to do those kinds of things again.”
Tillman, 29, had interest from other teams, but confirmed what everyone suspected — that he felt it was very important to come back from last year’s frustrating season with the team that has seen what he can do when he’s at his best. And, of course, there was the personal bond with the organization.
“It’s special to me,” he said. “It’s the only place I know. It really is. I think for me and my family — my wife and my parents — they’ve only really seen me pitch in a Baltimore uniform other than high school, so that was a big part of it. And you’ve got to go where you’re comfortable and your family is comfortable.”
Though Tillman made it clear he’s focused on the future instead of the recent past, he couldn’t avoid a question about what he think went wrong last year.
“Everything,” he said. “There wasn’t a whole lot that went right, beginning in the offseason. I think that’s a huge part of it for a starting pitcher, is the preparation in the offseason to make 30 starts and to feel strong and confident with what you’re bringing to the table for the team. I was a little bit behind last year based on the circumstances.”