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Thoughts off of last night's game

Orioles manager Buck Showalter was noncommittal after the game when he was asked whether Chris Tillman will make his next scheduled start Monday against the Minnesota Twins in the first of a 10-game homestand. "I'm not at that point now. We just got through a game," he said. He did make what was perhaps a telling comment when he said, "There's always options if you have to make an adjustment." I'm pretty sure that the same fans who were railing on Tillman last night would still rather watch the soon-to-be 23-year-old pitch every five days rather than a veteran journeyman like Ryan Drese or Chris George. However, I don't think that will matter at all to Showalter or pitching coach Mark Connor. They're not going to continue to watch a pitcher put the team in a multi-run hole and tax the bullpen every fifth day. Even during his six shutout and hitless innings against the Tampa Bay Rays in the second game of the season, Orioles officials saw plenty from Tillman that concerned them, including too many missed locations, falling behind in counts and experiencing other command issues. The Rays didn't exploit him, but let's be honest, their lineup -- Ben Zobrist aside -- couldn't hit a beach ball for the first week of the season.

By the way, there has been plenty written about Tillman's dip in velocity, both on this blog and in other places. However, after watching Tillman pitch last night, I was reminded that the focus on the right-hander's velocity is probably misplaced. Sure, if he threw harder, Tillman would get away with more mistakes over the plate. But his biggest problem is he can't command his fastball in the strike zone or get ahead with it early in counts. He's a great kid who works hard, but it just doesn't appear that he has enough weapons right now to get big league hitters out on a consistent basis.

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On a positive pitching note from last night, Brad Bergesen threw two perfect innings in his return to the club. He struck out two, got three groundouts and a foulout, and threw 16 of his 24 pitches for strikes. Bergesen is expected to pitch in Sunday's series finale in Cleveland, though that isn't a sure thing with bad weather predicted this weekend. If he does pitch and turns in a quality outing, I'd have to think he'll look back fondly at last night's outing. Bergesen puts on a good face for the most part, but I can't imagine his confidence has been very high with his limited workload, inconsistent results and three demotions in a year's span. Last night was a perfect spot to put him in to knock off some of the rust and start rebuilding his confidence.

One final comment on the pitching: Brian Matusz expanded his rehab program yesterday, throwing from 90 feet. Showalter said that assuming there are no setbacks, the young lefty will rejoin the club next week to throw in front of Connor and bullpen coach Rick Adair. This is obviously good news. I'm sure people are already envisioning a rotation that includes Jeremy Guthrie, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Matusz. I don't want to temper that enthusiasm, especially after last night's downer, but I do want to point out that Matusz is still a couple of weeks away. Showalter said it's too early to know whether Matusz will be cleared to throw off the mound next week. Also, even after he throws a couple of bullpen sessions, he'll still need a multi-start rehab assignment. Remember, Matusz didn't log many innings during spring training. He's not starting from scratch, but it's not a situation where he'll make one three-inning rehab start and rejoin the club. I would think he'd probably make at least three. That's a week and a half right there. My guess is we're still looking at early to mid-May for his return.

Vladimir Guerrero has hit 437 career home runs with his unique swing-at-everything-and-anything style. I thoroughly enjoy watching him hit, and I'm the last person who has any business criticizing his approach. However, I can't help but wonder sometimes if things would be a little different if he was a little more patient. Last night, the Orioles trailed by three runs in the eighth inning, and they obviously needed base runners. Rafael Soriano was pitching, and he's a guy that has had one brutal outing already and is a leadoff walk or hit away from starting to hear murmurs from the hard-to-please paying customers in the Bronx. However, the Orioles never really gave him a chance to get in trouble. Guerrero took a wild swing at Soriano's first-pitch curveball and popped it up to Alex Rodriguez in foul territory. Luke Scott followed with a single, but Soriano needed just 11 pitches to record a scoreless eighth.

Adam Jones gets some criticism here and other places for his occasional lapses defensively, but he has played a really good center field through the Orioles' first 10 games. His diving catch last night on Jorge Posada's blooper with the bases loaded in the second inning was one of the better catches that you'll see from an Oriole this year. He got a good jump on it and made a fearless swan dive on a wet and miserable night to catch the ball. That he saved two runs on the play shouldn't be overlooked.

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