Tillman tapped as Orioles opening day starter

SARASOTA, Fla. - Chris Tillman got the news he was hoping for. He was named the Baltimore Orioles Opening Day starter March 31.

Tillman, who was 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA in 2013, was called into manager Buck Showalter's office on Monday and told he would be the man to face the Boston Red Sox on March 31.

"Anytime you get the chance to get that kind of opportunity it's a big deal. Number one, it's an honor, it's exciting. At the same time, it's important for the team to get us started in the right direction, the season going the right way. I think we are all just excited to get this thing going," Tillman said.

Last season, Tillman began the year as the fifth starter, and now he's the fifth Opening Day starter in as many years. Jason Hammel, Jake Arrieta, Jeremy Guthrie and Kevin Millwood were the others.

Tillman was acquired along with Adam Jones from Seattle in a trade for Erik Bedard in 2008, and he struggled in his first major league seasons.

It wasn't until July 2012, when he was called up to the majors for good, that he proved his supporters right.

Showalter, who's one of them, delighted in telling Tillman. He said the right-hander, who will turn 26 on Apr. 15, took the news as he expected him to.

"He's one of those guys who walks out of here and, trust me, he gets it. One thing I got is his face got a little different color," Showalter said.

When Showalter became the Orioles manager in Aug. 2010, Tillman was in the early stages of his major league career, and he's watched him grow.

"There are things about Chris you can't put on paper," Showalter said. "He's a competitive guy. You see a different look on his face on game day. He's been around some good people. He's figured out who he is. He's comfortable in his own skin, and I think he likes people counting on him."

The Red Sox, who won the World Series last year, will start Jon Lester for the opener.

"It's definitely a big honor and you've got to earn it. But at the same time we've got five guys here who are all capable of doing it. I think that's what's special to me. I was the guy that was chosen, the one they want to go out there and run with it get this thing going in the right direction," Tillman said.

He knows there will be nerves, but he is prepared for it.

"All the hype of opening day, yeah. Whether you're sitting in the dugout or pitching, it's the same thing. There's pressure for everyone. I've been in the dugout and I've been more nervous watching than being a part of it. It's just a matter of getting the team going in the right direction. I think it's important," Tillman said.

Showalter told Ubaldo Jimenez, who's slotted No. 2 before telling Tillman. Jimenez signed a four-year contract with Baltimore after training camp started. His late start made Showalter's choice an easier one.

"It's nice to have an option," Showalter said. "I'm hoping in the future it gets harder and harder to pick the one."

RAIN OUT: The Orioles had two games rained out on Monday. Their afternoon game in Clearwater with the Philadelphia Phillies was canceled around 1 p.m. The home game with Minnesota was washed out about three hours before the 7:05 scheduled start.

Brian Matusz and Kevin Gausman were supposed to pitch in the afternoon game. They will throw in simulated minor league games against Twins minor leaguers at the Orioles complex.