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Tillman sharp in O's exhibition opener

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - Opening Day is March 31, and Chris Tillman will probably be the Baltimore Orioles starter then. Perhaps it was appropriate that Tillman started for the Orioles Friday in their exhibition opener.

Tillman, who started the final game of the 2013 season, a year when he won 16 games, threw two scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out three.

Baltimore beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 before 5,017 at Charlotte Sports Park.

Tillman was satisfied with how he threw.

"It was good. I think it was more of going out and getting the adrenaline flowing at the beginning and the nerve flowing more than anything else. I felt good about myself. Just wanted to work on fastball command today and for the most part it was good," Tillman said.

After throwing bullpens and batting practice, Tillman got to face familiar opponents. Unlike the Orioles, who brought along few players who will likely make the roster next month, Tampa Bay had many of their frontline players in at the start.

"I think this early in spring it doesn't really matter who you face. It's just going out there and getting the feel again. We face our own hitters the first two weeks and it isn't the same feel. So it was good to get the juices flowing again," Tillman said.

Manager Buck Showalter was happy, too.

"Tilly was sharp. Sometimes last year he was kind of searching for arm strength early, even in the season, but he was pretty sharp today," Showalter said.

Baltimore scored three runs in the first off Erik Bedard and another in the second against Heath Bell.

Alex Gonzalez had a two-run single. Steve Clevenger and Francisco Peguero each had two hits, and Jemile Weeks scored two runs.

Zach Britton gave up a run in two scoreless innings. Brad Brach, Eddie Gamboa, Nick Additon and Tim Alderson each threw a scoreless inning. Mike Belfiore gave up a run in the seventh.

"I was trying to familiarize myself with some people I don't know. Kind of curious to see what they bring," Showalter said.

MONICA BARLOW DIES: Orioles director of public relations Monica Barlow died Friday morning of cancer at 36. Barlow, who had been with the team since 2001, was promoted to PR director in 2008.

Barlow was diagnosed with cancer about 4 ½ years ago, and waged an increasingly public fight with the disease. She was active in Major League Baseball's "Stand up to Cancer" program was a top fundraiser for "Lungevity" walks.

Showalter choked up before the game when he tried to speak about her, and said afterward that the game was somewhat of a "reprieve" for him.

He tried to text her on Thursday night and when he didn't get an answer from her, he feared the worst.

"We lost a feather from the Oriole today. Monica embodied everything we strive to be about. Her passion, loyalty, and tenacity set a great example for everyone in the organization. She was so courageous in continuing to do her job the last few years despite her pain," Showalter said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Chris Jones, a left-handed reliever, who was designated for assignment on Monday when Nelson Cruz was signed, was released. ... Quintin Berry (back), Alexi Casilla (hamstring) and Chris Marrero (oblique) did not make the trip. ... The Orioles face Toronto in their home opener on Saturday. Miguel Gonzalez pitches against Drew Hutchison. Brian Matusz is scheduled to start Sunday, Bud Norris and Kevin Gausman will pitch on Monday and Wei-Yin Chen will throw on Tuesday. Showalter hasn't set a definitive date for Ubaldo Jimenez's debut. Jimenez threw a bullpen on Friday in Sarasota.

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