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Orioles pitching prospect Chris Tillman had two goals for his first 2010 Triple-A start last night against the Durham Bulls, and both were related. He wanted to pitch well and efficiently enough where he would have an opportunity to catch the final couple of innings his best friend, Orioles lefty Brian Matusz, was throwing against the Tampa Bay Rays.Mission half accomplished.

While in the Triple-A Norfolk clubhouse after his outing, Tillman witnessed Matusz salvaging his uneven start by striking out the side against the Rays in the fifth inning. Tillman, however, wasn't completely satisfied with his own outing, in which he allowed two runs on five hits in four innings of work, striking out five while walking one. He threw 81 pitches, 57 of them for strikes.

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"The first two innings, I was disappointed, but I guess I can't be too much because I had a week and a half off since I last pitched," said Tillman, a 21-year-old right-hander. "I kind of figured it out in the third and fourth innings. I thought I could have gone longer, but after the long first inning, they didn't want to stretch me out too much."

Tillman, who allowed both of his runs in the second inning, said he took some solace in the fact that the Bulls weren't making solid contact on him.

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"There were a lot of bloop hits, two or three dropped third strikes where the guy reached first base," he said. "It was sloppy baseball from both sides, and especially on my part. But I definitely turned things around and got back into my groove."

Tillman acknowledged that it has been an adjustment to be back at Triple-A after it was expected that he would start the season in the Orioles' rotation. However, David Hernandez beat him out for the fifth starter's job.

"I guess you can say that it took me a little while to get over it, but I know what I need to work on and I know what I need to do to get better," he said.

-- Jeff Zrebiec

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