Chris Tillman showed up there Thursday hoping that a new start in a different organization will allow him to become a star-quality pitcher again.
Tillman signed a minor league contract with the Rangers and soon will be pitching with their Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock.
“Obviously good to have a new start,’’ Tillman said. “It’s kind of like spring training. It’s the start of a new year. It’s a new opportunity and I’m excited to be here. … I’ve seen it work a bunch of times. We had a couple guys that got a new opportunity and got a new set of eyes on them and turned into pretty good pitchers. You see it all the time.”
Tillman said he’s “100 percent” confident that he can get back to where he was as a pitcher from 2013 to 2016, when he emerged as the Orioles’ No. 1 starter. He was on track to win 20 games two seasons ago before a shoulder problem slowed him in August.
“I feel good. … I feel healthy,’’ he said. “I’ve just got to start pitching. I haven’t pitched in a while. I need to get back to being me.”
Despite the unhappy parting, Tillman said he has nothing bad to say about the Orioles, who acquired him along with Adam Jones and three other players from the Seattle Mariners in 2008.
“I spent a lot of time there,’’ he said. “I spent a lot of time in the minor leagues and a lot of time in Baltimore. Had a lot of fun. Got to know a lot of really good people for a long time. I’m grateful. We had a heck of a run for quite a few years. Unfortunately, it unfolded the way it did, but it was a heck of a lot of fun while it lasted.”
The news of his signing reminded Orioles manager Buck Showalter that he first saw Tillman in person in this stadium while he was having preliminary discussions with Andy MacPhail about becoming the Orioles manager in 2010.
“Perfect,’’ Showalter said. “Great spot for him.The first time I talked to Andy, he was pitching great here. We were watching it over our shoulder. He had a great outing early in his career.
“He’s a perfect change-of-scenery [guy]. That’s a good move by them. I hope he does well. It’ll be a good spot for him.”
The Orioles gave Tillman the opportunity to continue pitching at Triple-A Norfolk, but he could see the direction the team was going. He said that even if he pitched well, he figured that the Orioles would probably use prospects to fill the open slots in the rotation the rest of this season.
“They made it pretty clear they were going young,’’ he said. “They said regardless of what I did they were going to stick with the young guys, pretty much. That’s what I got out of the phone call I had. That doesn’t sound like a very good opportunity to me.”
Showalter did not dispute that assessment.
“Everybody would love to have a Chris Tillman around,’’ Showalter said. “We were hoping to continue down that path, but for Chris’ sake, it’s probably the right move for him and his family and his future. He’s still a young man with a healthy arm. He’s still capable. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him pitching at a high level again.”
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.